Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange
Ghada Aoun. (Photo/Twitter)
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Updated 17 April 2021

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange
  • Prosecutor’s stand sparks calls for judiciary to ‘rise up against corruption’

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches.

Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during the raid on the money exchange in the Awkar district in northern Lebanon.

Less than 24 hours earlier she raided the office with members of the security services.

Aoun remained in the money exchange for several hours on Friday in protest at her dismissal by the the discriminatory Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, a decision that caused widespread anger among the Lebanese public.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

After the meeting Najm voiced her anger at the situation regarding the judiciary, saying that she refuses to be “a false witness to the decay of the judiciary and the fall of the fig leaf in this state.”

Najm said the events involving Aoun are an indication of “the failure of state institutions.”

Lebanon is facing a political and economic crisis amid disputes between state officials, a deadlock that has led to the collapse of the national currency.

However, critics accuse Aoun of a lack of respect for due process.

HIGHLIGHT

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

There are six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her before the Judicial Inspection Authority — the largest number of cases filed against any judge in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.

Aoun was investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

The Supreme Judicial Council dismissed Aoun along with two other judges who had previously been suspended by the Disciplinary Council for Judges.

Judge Oweidat on Friday asked the Director-General of State Security, Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba, to suspend the officers who accompanied Aoun on the exchange office raid.

People in Lebanon on Friday watched on TV as Aoun requested that the money exchange office be sealed because the owner, Michel Mecattaf, refused to provide her with details of currency transfers on behalf of banks.

Earlier, Mecattaf’s agents informed Aoun that she had been dismissed from the case.

Aoun remained alone for hours inside the office after state security personnel left. A medical team checked on her after her blood pressure rose, and she left the premises soon after. Later she stepped on to the balcony of her home to wave to FPM supporters, who gathered outside to offer support.

After Aoun’s second raid on Saturday, the head of the Mecattaf financial company accused her supporters of “breaking into private property by force.”

Mecattaf described the case as “eminently political,” saying that he is “a witness and not a convict.”

Najm described the events as “unacceptable.”

“I am not in a position to please this political party or that team. We want an effective and independent judiciary. The problem is not the laws — oversight and accountability have been absent for years,” she said.

Najm also said that “the judiciary is incapable of fighting corruption,” and called on judges to “rise up against this reality.”

She added: “There is a lack of confidence in the judiciary, and this is a major insult.”

Retired General Prosecutor Hatem Madi told Arab News: “Judge Oweidat’s decision shows that some judges are working independently, but things must be put to rights. Regardless of whether Oweidat’s decision was right or wrong, the public prosecution offices in Lebanon must be an integrated unit.”

The decision to dismiss Aoun revived a political dispute between the FPM and the Future Movement, the two parties in conflict over the formation of the government.

The FPM, headed by MP Gebran Bassil, said that it will “continue to expose every file related to the fight against corruption,” saluting “every judge who rightfully performs their duties despite the injustice to which they are sometimes exposed.”

The Future Movement said that “mourning for judges after encouraging them to violate laws and asking them to open discretionary files for opponents is a matter that no longer fools any of the Lebanese people.”

 


Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount
Updated 06 May 2021

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount
  • Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City

JERUSALEM: Twenty-two Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem, the Red Crescent said Thursday, as tensions flare over a controversial land rights case.
Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where land disputes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers have fueled hostility for years.
Palestinian protests, which began late Wednesday, continued into the early hours.
The legal case centers on the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jews.
Earlier this year, a Jerusalem district court ruled the homes legally belonged to the Jewish families, citing purchases decades ago.
The Jewish plaintiffs claimed their families lost the land during the war that accompanied Israel’s creation in 1948, a conflict that also saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes.
The Palestinian families implicated in the case have provided evidence that their homes were acquired from Jordanian authorities who controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967.
Amman has intervened in the case, providing documents to support the Palestinian claims.
Israel seized east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
The district court ruling infuriated Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who viewed it as a further step in what they see as a Jewish settler effort to drive Arabs out of east Jerusalem.
Weeks of clashes that have seen police use skunk water cannons and deploy anti-riot police on horseback have resulted in several arrests.
Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the sides to seek a compromise.
Sami Irshid, a lawyer for the Palestinians, said the Nahalat Shimon settler movement proposed that one member of each concerned Palestinian family be recognized as a “protected tenant.”
That would temporarily delay eviction until the protected tenant died, at which point the home would return to Nahalat Shimon, Irshid said.
“We reject this completely,” Mona Al-Kurd, one of the Palestinian residents said.
“The settlers want us to recognize their property rights, it is impossible.”
Yehonatan Yosef, an activist with Nahalat Shimon, accused the Palestinian families of rejecting “any compromise.”
“It’s their problem,” he said, noting that if the Supreme Court ruled in the settlers’ favor, the Jewish families would do what they wished with each plot.
The Supreme Court has indicated that if the sides cannot reach a compromise, it will rule on whether the Palestinians can appeal the district court decision.
An appeal process could take years.
Mohammed Deif, the reclusive leader of the military wing of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, issued a rare public warning on Tuesday, saying Israel would pay a “high price” over the Sheikh Jarrah dispute.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their future capital, while Israel regards the entire city as its “undivided capital.”
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki sent a letter to the International Criminal Court urging it to “to take a clear and public stand against crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.”


Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster
Updated 06 May 2021

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

DUBAI: Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdelmalik Saeed has directed $7.9 million be approved urgently for the damage caused by the flood disaster in the Tarim District in Hadramout, state news agency SABA reported.

The prime minister visited the district on Wednesday to inspect the damage caused by the flooding and listened to a number of affected citizens who spoke about the material damages it caused.

Local residents called on the government and local authority to do their part towards those affected and take actions to prevent the recurrence of the disaster.

The prime minister indicated funds will be allocated to those affected by the floods, and repair the damaged services and infrastructure.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the recurrence of the floods, especially in Tarim, require sustainable solutions.

 


Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan
Updated 06 May 2021

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan
  • Regime forces and operatives from Hezbollah were at the post
  • Three soldiers were injured in the attack

DUBAI: An Israeli helicopter targeted military posts near the occupied Golan heights late on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Regime forces and operatives from Hezbollah were at the post, which is near the town of Jubata Al-Khashab, north of Quneitra, the report added.
Three soldiers were injured in the attack, but the report hasn’t specified whether they were aligned with the regime or Hezbollah.
Israel fired missiles toward northwest Syria early Wednesday, killing one person and wounding six, Syrian state media reported.
It was the first Israeli attack on Syria since a missile fired by Damascus struck deep inside Israel two weeks ago.
The missiles targeted the northwestern towns of Haffeh and Masyaf and struck a civilian plastic warehouse among other locations, state TV said. Syrian air defense units responded to the missile attacks, the report said, without giving further details.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
The missile attack at dawn Wednesday occurred nearly two weeks after Israel’s military said a Syrian missile that reached deep into Israeli territory and set off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor was the result of a misfire and not a deliberate attack.
The missile landed in southern Israel on April 22, prompting Israel to respond with airstrikes on the missile launcher and other targets in Syria.


Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas

Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas
Updated 06 May 2021

Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas

Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas

DUBAI: Iran’s Quds Force commander Hassan Erlo is acting as de facto ruler of areas controlled by the Houthi militia, a senior Yemeni official was cited by state news agency SABA.

Erlo’s movements are highlighted through the Houthis’ media outfit, confirm that he is acting as a leader, Muammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s minister of information, culture and tourism, said on Wednesday.

Eryani added that these actions affirm that the Houthi leadership take political, military and administrative orders from the Iranian regime.

The Iranian regime sends orders through Erlo, Eryani added.

The minister claimed that these practices reveal to the international community Iran’s attempts to impose its control on Yemen as part of its “expansion project in the entire region,” the report said, and that the Houthi militia was “a dirty tool to implement this project.”


Sudan PM stresses need to reach binding agreement on Renaissance Dam

Sudan PM stresses need to reach binding agreement on Renaissance Dam
Updated 06 May 2021

Sudan PM stresses need to reach binding agreement on Renaissance Dam

Sudan PM stresses need to reach binding agreement on Renaissance Dam

DUBAI: Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok has stressed the importance of reaching a binding agreement regarding the Renaissance Dam, which would allow better planning for agricultural development and production, state news agency SUNA reported on Wednesday.

Sudan will always be at the mercy of Ethiopia for water without an agreement, Hamdok said, as he demanded for a binding accord within the framework of international law.

The issues related to the Renaissance Dam were serious and related to the security and safety of millions in Sudan and Egypt, SUNA reported, quoting Hamdok’s earlier CNN interview.  

The Prime Minister indicated that Sudan proposed to transform the role of observers into mediators to help reach a binding agreement on the dam.

Hamdok also highlighted Sudan’s current border crisis with Ethiopia, pointing out that it had been resolved since 1902 by the pact demarcating the borders on the map and that successive Ethiopian governments have recognized these borders.