DUBAI: Three lawyers took legal action against Lebanon’s information minister on Thursday, wanting him to be charged and tried in a criminal court for inciting strife and disrupting relations with Arab countries for his “libelous and fabricated” comments on the Houthis.
Information Minister George Kordahi on Tuesday triggered diplomatic outrage and a social media frenzy when a video of him saying that the Houthis were defending themselves and describing the Yemeni war as “absurd” surfaced online.
Kordahi was asked in an interview that was recorded on Aug. 5, before he was named information minister, about his position on what was happening in Yemen. He replied: “In my opinion, this Yemeni war is absurd and should stop.”
Arab News has learned that Lebanese lawyers Mohammad Ziyad Ja’afil, Abdul Aziz Jumaa and Abeer Bannout lodged a legal notice before the Cassation Prosecution General accusing Kordahi of committing crimes that jeopardized national unity and damaged Lebanon’s relations with Arab countries.
Referring to his “controversial comments” in their legal notice, the lawyers said Kordahi’s statement had created a diplomatic and political crisis considering he was a member of the current cabinet of Lebanon, “a country that has common interests as well as historic and close relationships with Arab Gulf countries and namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
According to the legal notice, the lawyers said: “The relevant minister is not an ordinary person but rather a veteran broadcaster, information minister, represents the head of Lebanese media and a professional academician and diplomat. His comment wasn’t just a coincidence or simple reaction as some are trying to propagate.”
They said Kordahi’s comments had endangered Lebanon’s relations with its Arabic counterparts, that he had breached the code of professional and diplomatic conduct, and caused a crisis for his country.
“He endangered the interests of citizens and expats, aside from harming Lebanon’s political and economic interests adding up to its isolation. He incited sectarian, religious and racist strife,” read the legal notice, a copy of which was obtained by Arab News.
The lawyers deemed Kordahi’s comments to be “baseless, libelous and fabricated” and that they remained a figment of his imagination.
“His comments have harmed every patriotic citizen who appreciates and respects Arab countries that have constantly supported and aided Lebanon,” read the notice.
Ja’afil, Jumaa and Bannout said they lodged their legal notice to refrain anyone from slandering Arab countries, to punish the wrongdoer, and to set a future precedent for others not to disrespect or libel Arab brothers.
The plaintiffs added that what the minister had said, and the fact that the Lebanese president and prime minister’s office disassociated themselves from his comments, before he repeated what he said and refused to apologize on Wednesday, confirmed that he had committed a crime and breached his duties.
“His behavior is incriminated and punishable by the Penal Code and requires that he be prosecuted and tried before a criminal court and not before the special parliamentary committee that tries presidents and ministers,” said the lawyers.
Jumaa said they had lodged the legal notice in their capacity as Lebanese citizens who did not want to be affected or influenced by Kordahi’s statements.
“We disagree with his controversial statements that could bring unwanted sufferings and ramifications and inflict damages upon us, as citizens, and on expats living in the Gulf,” Jumaa told Arab News.
Asked what punishment Kordahi could face if he were charged and referred to court, the lawyer replied: “If the judicial progress takes its independent course without any political pressure, he could face between one and three years in jail and/or a fine of $600 as per the Lebanese Penal Code’s article 194.”
When asked if the Cassation Prosecutor General’s decision in the case was irrevocable, Bannout told Arab News that there was no timeframe for the investigating prosecutor to hand out a decision that could not be appealed.
Prosecutors are yet to decide whether to impeach Kordahi and refer him to a criminal court or dismiss the legal action.
The Gulf Cooperation Council on Wednesday condemned the minister’s comments, saying it reflected limited knowledge and shallow understanding.
A former TV presenter, Kordahi has stirred controversy in the past with his opinions on matters ranging from Syrian President Bashar Assad to harassment in the workplace.