BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge who defied a decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches was Tuesday referred to the Judicial Inspection Authority over her actions.
Judge Ghada Aoun had been investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing US dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.
She staged two raids on a currency exchange earlier this month, defying a decision from Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oweidat to dismiss her from the case. There have been six criminal cases and 28 complaints filed against Aoun.
Lebanon’s Supreme Judicial Council met the judge on Tuesday, deciding to refer her to the authority and asking it to take the necessary measures.
“Any investigation or judicial case will be followed up to the end by the competent judiciary whoever the judge may be and regardless of any considerations outside of the judicial framework,” the council said, emphasizing that judicial authority was exercised by all judges. “It is their responsibility to preserve and protect it, abide by their oath and not mix between their duty and issues that do not come in line with the nature of proper judicial work.”
Aoun’s actions gained political traction when she was accompanied on one of the raids by supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the political party led by MP Gebran Bassil.
A number of FPM supporters accompanied Aoun on Tuesday to the vicinity of the Justice Palace in Beirut.
They waited for her on the street while she attended the council session, which lasted for 40 minutes and took place amid strict security measures taken by the army and Internal Security Forces.
On Monday, rival protests had to be broken up after fighting erupted between those who supported her and those who did not.
The conflict between Aoun and Oweidat temporarily diverted attention away from the months-long political deadlock that has stopped a new government from being formed.
But the involvement of FPM supporters has angered some, who said the judge was being used as a tool to settle political scores.
The council downplayed the idea that there was a dispute, judicial or political.
“What happened is not a dispute between those who want to fight corruption and hold the corrupt accountable, and those who do not want to and are preventing it, or a conflict between the prosecutor general and the region public prosecutor. It definitely is not a political dispute between two parties, as some are portraying it.”
The council said it had asked the Court of Cassation’s Public Prosecutor and the head of the Judicial Inspection Authority to take the necessary measures, each within his jurisdiction, regarding her actions, to listen to her before the council due to her “violation of the obligation to exercise reserve, recurrent failure to meet the commitments she expressed before the council, and refusal to come to the Cassation Public Prosecution.”
Its statement also referred to Aoun’s “positions and actions” following Oweidat’s decision, in which he amended the distribution of work at Mount Lebanon Public Prosecution.
The council’s term ends in June and it tried, through the position it adopted on Tuesday, to save face due to the judiciary’s image suffering in the past few days.