BEIRUT: Videos circulated by activists on social media on Wednesday showed a young man beating Lebanese and Syrian workers employed to pick cherries on his land in Majdel Akoura, northern Lebanon.
The shocking footage also showed evidence of torture on the bodies of the young men, who were filmed as they pleaded for mercy.
The families of the abused men from nearby poverty-stricken villages said that the employer accused the workers of stealing money, a wristwatch and sunglasses after four days of working for him so he could get away with not paying their wages.
The employer allegedly called in his friends who forced the workers to take off their clothes, placed potatoes in their mouths and beat them with electric wires, then filmed the abuse.
Many expressed anger on social media, particularly associations concerned with human rights, workers’ rights and Syrian refugees. Activists demanded that security forces carry out an investigation quickly to hold those who participated to account.
The people of Fnaidek blocked the Al-Abdeh road near the police station, denouncing the attack on their sons and demanding the arrest of the perpetrators.
Fnaidek officials confirmed that the tortured workers in the videos were young men from the town and Syrians working in Jbeil.
After the videos went viral, the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces said that “a person at the Akoura police station had claimed Monday that a number of his workers stole a sum of 100 million Lebanese pounds, and the case was transferred to the judicial police. After the torture videos were circulated, the ISF launched an investigation and issued an order to bring in the concerned person to testify.”
Head of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee MP Michel Moussa said: “The abhorrent practices of torture call for absolute condemnation. We demand the arrest of the perpetrators of these acts that violate laws and human norms, and offend people’s dignity.”
Future Movement Secretary-General Ahmad Hariri tweeted: “What we saw in Majdel Akoura against the people of Akkar and the Syrian brothers is similar to the actions of the Islamic State.”
Hariri called on the authorities “to take prompt action so the perpetrator of this despicable act becomes an example to those who allow themselves to attack people’s dignity and brutally torture others. We appreciate the efforts of the people of the two areas to remain calm.”
A statement by the Lebanese Forces revealed that the perpetrator is affiliated with the party. The LF condemned his actions and said that his membership was suspended until official investigations were completed.
“We refuse to be linked to this unacceptable individual act,” the LF said.
In a statement, Mufti of Jbeil Sheikh Ghassan Al-Luqais condemned the “attack on the people of an area that is considered an oasis of security, peace and coexistence between different sects. They came to the Majdel Akoura area to earn a living, believing that they are the sons of one country.”