Strike threat after controversial judge leads raid on Lebanon’s central bank

Strike threat after controversial judge leads raid on Lebanon’s central bank
Lebanese Judge Ghada Aoun speaks to the press after raiding the Central Bank with security forces to pursue Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, who she has charged with corruption in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 19 July 2022

Strike threat after controversial judge leads raid on Lebanon’s central bank

Strike threat after controversial judge leads raid on Lebanon’s central bank
  • Furious bank employee representatives later announced a three-day strike in protest at the raid

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces on Tuesday raided the offices and home of Lebanon’s central bank governor, Riad Salameh, over links to charges of illicit enrichment and money laundering.

Mount Lebanon’s state prosecutor, Judge Ghada Aoun, who is heading the case against the banker, joined guards who entered the bank’s Hamra Street premises in Beirut hoping to arrest Salameh.

However, the raid ended after Beirut public prosecution judge, Raja Hamouche, asked state security agents to clear the building.

Furious bank employee representatives later announced a three-day strike in protest at the raid.

Aoun, who brought the charges against Salameh in March, said: “We were told that the central bank’s governor was not there, and the court of cassation public prosecutor didn’t respond to us.”

The incident sparked criticism in some quarters, and one judicial source said: “Judge Aoun doesn’t have any power in Beirut. She’s a judge in Mount Lebanon and she doesn’t have the right to cross her powers.”

At the same time, security forces also raided Salameh’s house in the Rabieh area of Mount Lebanon. The governor was not present at either premises.

The central bank governor’s monetary policy has been partly blamed for contributing to Lebanon’s economic meltdown and currency crisis.

Salameh has claimed that “the state borrowed money from the central bank and promised to implement reforms but did not,” and he held politicians accountable “for what is happening.”

But he has failed to appear for questioning before Aoun on five occasions, considering the judge’s prosecution to be “part of a systematic process to distort” his image.

A statement released on his behalf, said: “A judge cannot be an enemy and a referee at the same time. Political reasons are behind the lawsuit filed against him.”

Aoun has refused to be notified of a lawsuit filed by Salameh’s attorneys against her at the beginning of the year requesting her removal from the case. She previously prosecuted him five times and imposed a travel ban on him.

In March, she arrested his brother, Raja Salameh, for questioning over “suspicions of money laundering, embezzlement, illicit enrichment, and smuggling of large money sums abroad.”

Meanwhile, angry employees at the central bank condemned Tuesday’s raid.

Abbas Awada, head of the bank’s employees’ syndicate, said: “The dignity of the bank and its employees is above anything, and we refuse to be treated in this militia-like way.”

And he announced a three-day strike, “to let the rational people intervene and protect the institution.”

An employees’ syndicate statement said: “Judge Ghada Aoun and her security personnel entered the bank ... without due process of law, which hit the dignity of the bank and its employees.”

The syndicate called on Lebanon’s justice minister, president of the supreme judicial council, and state general prosecutor, “to put an end to these inappropriate actions of judge Ghada Aoun, which deviate from all legal principles ... so that we don’t announce an open strike.”

It also appealed for concerned individuals to, “protect the institution of the central bank and its employees, especially that it is the only institution operating at full capacity in Lebanon despite the difficult circumstances.”

Awada added: “We are not defending governor Salameh, but the institution as an entity. If there’s any clean institution in this country, it’s the central bank.”

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said he regretted, “the way sensitive judicial files related to the country’s monetary stability are being treated, wreaking havoc.

“I said it before and I say it now, we are not defending anyone, but we hold on to a fair, non-discretionary judiciary while ensuring Lebanon’s financial reputation internationally.

“What is required is to solve this case with a prior political agreement on a new central bank governor, and let the case take its appropriate legal course afterward.”

Lebanese member of parliament, Marwan Hamadeh, described the raid as “folkloric and a show-off,” adding that, “a state of insanity is surrounding the president’s term and his entourage, only causing the country devastation, destruction, and bankruptcy.

“Isn’t it the current president who said that ‘we are going to hell’? That was the only truth he told throughout his term.”

President Michel Aoun is seeking to appoint a new governor of the central bank before the end of his term in October, as part of his ongoing demand for a criminal investigation into its financial operations.


Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
Updated 56 min 10 sec ago

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
  • Team of 30 psychologists, specialists will provide support to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti charity is offering psychological aid and emotional support for victims of wars and crises in the Middle East.

The International Islamic Charity Organization charity has established a team of 30 psychologists and specialists who will provide support in three refugee-hosting countries: Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Kuwait News Agency reported on Monday.

Othman Al-Asfour, head of the lICO Tarahum team, said that the initiative affirms an integral part of social and psychological support in humanitarian aid.

Psychologist Dr. Shereefa Al-Khamees stressed that refugees were in urgent need of psychological aid as much as handouts and donations.

The psychological health of the affected is very delicate and requires thorough treatment and support, Al-Khamees added.

 


Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
Updated 05 December 2022

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah, Algerian president witness signing of two agreements and three MoUs
  • Governments instructed to take steps to boost investment, commercial opportunities in both countries

ALGIERS: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune have launched a new phase of bilateral relations.

The leaders held talks on Sunday in Algiers to discuss boosting Jordanian-Algerian cooperation in politics, economics, trade, investment, and defense, Jordan News Agency reported.

The meeting, which was attended by senior officials from both sides, also affirmed interest in maintaining coordination and consultation on Arab causes and other issues of mutual concern. 

King Abdullah reiterated the centrality of the Palestinian cause and the need to protect Palestinians’ legitimate rights. 

He called for a just and comprehensive peace plan based on the two-state solution which establishes an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

He also reaffirmed the significance of maintaining the historical and legal status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque.

Following the meeting, the leaders witnessed the signing of an agreement on visa exemptions for diplomatic passport-holders, as well as a cooperation program between Jordan News Agency and the Algerian Press Service. 

Three memorandums of understanding on political consultations, cooperation between the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy and the Algeria Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations, and the mutual recognition of maritime qualification certificates for seafarers, education programs, and maritime training between the two countries were also signed.

King Abdullah and President Tebboune further instructed their governments to take the necessary steps to encourage investors and businesses to explore investment and commercial opportunities in both countries. 

They were also directed to move forward with agreements that would expand collaborations in health care, energy, medical tourism, hotels, transportation, aviation training, higher education, and cultural exchange between universities. 

Economists have praised the outcomes of King Abdullah’s state visit to Algeria.

Jordanian Senator Mazen Darwazah said that Jordanian investment in Algeria has gradually increased over the last two decades, with the drug industry spending nearly $1 billion.

Jordanian-Algerian Business Council Coordinator Khaled Al-Soub said that Algerian law allows Jordanian investors to expand their projects and acquire shares from foreign partners. 

Energy expert Hashem Akel said that Algeria was rich in petrol and natural resources and hoped that energy imports from the country would increase after Jordan receives preferential prices.

 


Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
Updated 05 December 2022

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
  • ‘Many common points were found during the talks,’ source in PM’s office tells Arab News
  • Trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed

ROME: Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged their country’s “full cooperation” with Jordan “in every field,” during a meeting with King Abdullah II.

The monarch and Queen Rania were received by Mattarella at Quirinale Palace during their visit to Rome.

A source in the Italian presidency told Arab News that Mattarella stressed to the king “the importance for his country of the longstanding friendship between Italy and Jordan.” 

Italy is one of Jordan’s main commercial partners. In the first five months of 2021, bilateral trade grew by 26.7 percent compared to the same period the previous year. During the same period, Jordanian exports to Italy grew by 82.7 percent.

During an official lunch at Chigi Palace, Meloni told the king: “We always can do more together in so many fields.”

A source in the prime minister’s office said trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed.

“The situation in Syria was also covered. Many common points were found during the talks,” the source told Arab News.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Defense Minister Guido Crosetto also attended the lunch.


UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
Updated 05 December 2022

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
  • Israeli censorship a concern, says ALECSO representative

CAIRO: The Palestinian education system should be protected from attempts to censor material being taught at schools.

This was the concern raised by some officials at the 32nd joint meeting of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the Council of Educational Affairs of the Arab League in Cairo, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The gathering took place at the Arab League’s headquarters in Egypt’s capital.

Dr. Tamer Anis, a representative of the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization, drew attention to Israel’s attempts to censor the Palestinian curriculum. He urged support for the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Arab News had reported this year about attempts by Israel to impose a “sanitized” curriculum on East Jerusalem’s schools that includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag. Holy Qur’anic verses were also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.

At Sunday’s meeting in Cairo, Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, said the gathering comes in the wake of the UNRWA’s ongoing financial crisis, which has had a direct impact on the services provided to Palestinian refugees.

Abu Ali stressed the need for the next UNRWA budget to reflect the growing needs of Palestinian refugees. He added that the Arab League would continue to keep communication channels open between the two organizations

Rawda Al-Hajj, the representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that ISESCO continues to support several education projects in Palestine.

The UNRWA’s Deputy Director of Education Moritz Bilagher reiterated that the Palestinian refugee crisis was not solely the responsibility of Arab countries, but rather a global issue for which the international community must take responsibility.

 


Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
Updated 05 December 2022

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
  • Israeli president among 300 high-ranking personalities attending the event

DUBAI: Israeli president Isaac Herzog has arrived in the UAE Monday to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, state news agency (WAM) reported.

Herzog was welcomed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities and decision makers attending the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which opened on Monday.

The two-day event will discuss the space industry’s most pressing challenges and factors to drive the new space economy.