Lebanon archbishop’s arrest sparks Christian anger

Lebanon archbishop’s arrest sparks Christian anger
Bishop Musa Al-Hajj, archbishop of Haifa and the holy land, was accused of bringing large sums of money in US dollars into Lebanon. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 July 2022

Lebanon archbishop’s arrest sparks Christian anger

Lebanon archbishop’s arrest sparks Christian anger
  • Senior cleric faces eight-hour interrogation after Israel visit

BEIRUT: A senior Lebanese Maronite cleric’s detention and military court summons following a visit to his parish in Israel sparked indignation among Christian leaders on Wednesday.

Bishop Musa Al-Hajj, archbishop of Haifa and the holy land, was detained for 11 hours and faced an eight-hour interrogation after returning to Lebanon. His passport was seized and a travel ban imposed by military court judge Fadi Akiki.

Al-Hajj was accused of bringing large sums of money in US dollars into Lebanon.

His detention sparked anger in church and political circles. It is not the first time that Al-Hajj has visited Israel, after obtaining special permission from the army command to cross the border, especially since the Maronite Church owns property and land in the area.

While the two countries remain technically at war, Hajj visited Israel because he heads a community of Lebanese Christian Maronites living there, many of whom are refugees who collaborated with Israel during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

The controversy over his arrest has brought to light the issue of the Lebanese who fled to Israel 22 years ago, and also revealed the behind-the-scenes political tug-of-war over the next Lebanese president.

The Council of Maronite Bishops, which held an exceptional meeting on Wednesday headed by Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, expressed its dismay at Al-Hajj’s arrest.

Sources close to Al-Rai said: “Whoever wanted to deliver a political message to Al-Rai through Al-Hajj’s arrest can consider the message received, but Al-Rai will never shift positions.”

President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati both phoned Al-Rai to condemn the cleric’s detention.

Al-Hajj visited Al-Rai at his residence on Wednesday and briefed the patriarch on his 11-hour detention at the Al-Naqoura crossing.

The cleric said that all the items he was carrying with him, including medicines and aid to Lebanese families, and even his personal mobile phone, were searched without regard to his religious position, and he was released only after the judiciary and the church became involved.

“I was treated with respect during those 11 hours, but I was detained and asked many questions,” Al-Hajj said.

A judicial source told Arab News: “During the investigation, many medicines and a sum of money worth $460,000 were found in Al-Hajj’s possession. He also had a list of more than 100 Lebanese names, and next to each name was a reference to an amount of money not exceeding $500 or a reference to a medicine bag to be delivered to them.

“The investigation focused on the possibility of suspected money laundering for spies. So the names on the list were compared to the files of suspected Israeli spies who fled to Israel after the latter withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, and they are accused of joining the ranks of the South Lebanon Army, which was operating under Israeli command.”

According to the judicial source, Al-Hajj faced prosecution 18 months ago after a soldier in the Lebanese army charged with colluding with Israel admitted that he had received a sum of money from the cleric.

“However, Al-Hajj was not arrested at the time. Only the soldier was arrested and tried for colluding with Israel.”

The local Al-Markaziyah news agency quoted a source close to the Lebanese Church and the Vatican as saying: “Al-Hajj’s arrest now has existential and fateful dimensions; it is a message to the Vatican and an attempt to harm the identity and existence of Lebanon as an entity. The Vatican has previously stressed the necessity of Lebanon’s neutrality and steering clear of imported ideologies that have nothing to do with it.”

During his Sunday sermon, Al-Rai discussed the Maronite president to be elected at the end of the current president’s term in October.

“We want to elect a president who does not pose a challenge to this or that matter, who is committed to the Lebanese cause, national constants, Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and who abides by the principle of neutrality. We cannot call for Lebanon’s neutrality and choose a president who is biased toward certain axes and is thus unable to implement neutrality,” he said

Amin Gemayel, former president, said: “Arresting Al-Hajj while on a pastoral and humanitarian mission, and summoning him for investigation before the military court constitute a harsh blow by a political-judicial-security narrow-minded thinking against the role represented by the archbishop of the holy land through his care for the conditions of the Maronites, as well as all other Christian and Muslim denominations in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.”

Gemayel added: “We reject this political message addressed to Al-Rai in response to his patriotic stances.”

The Druze community’s religious authority said that Al-Hajj was transporting aid sent by good samaritans in Palestine to relatives or charities in Lebanon and Syria. It also condemned Al-Hajj’s arrest and defamation, and said that the issue should be viewed from a humanitarian standpoint.

Many expressed solidarity with Al-Hajj on social media. However, no activist affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah’s ally, reacted to the incident.


Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel
Updated 51 min 41 sec ago

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has received a letter from US mediator Amos Hochstein regarding proposals for the demarcation of a maritime border with Israel, the presidency said on Saturday on Twitter.
A deal could defuse a potential source of conflict between Israel and the heavily armed, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has warned against any Israeli exploration and extraction in the disputed waters.


Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul
Updated 01 October 2022

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

DUBAI: Arab states have condemned Friday’s terrorist attack that targeted an educational center in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, which killed teenage students, most of them girls.

The bombing happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area home to the minority Hazara community, the target of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.

The bomber shot dead two security guards before entering the gender-segregated hall where students were sitting for a practice college examination, earlier reports said.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in a statement, condemned the attack which killed and injured “scores of innocent people.”

The ministry voiced its rejection of all forms of violence and terrorism.

Bahrain also condemned the suicide blast, and in a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the kingdom’s “deep condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims.”

It also wished a speedy recovery for those injured.

Kuwait similarly denounced the attack as the Gulf state renewed its “firm and principled stance against all forms of violence and terrorism.”


Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory
Updated 01 October 2022

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory
  • Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it rejects Russia’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine, adding the decision is a “grave violation” of international law.
Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbors. It has also criticized Russia’s invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.
The Turkish ministry said on Saturday it had not recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding that it rejects Russia’s decision to annex the four regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
“This decision, which constitutes a grave violation of the established principles of international law, cannot be accepted,” the ministry said.
“We reiterate our support to the resolution of this war, the severity of which keeps growing, based on a just peace that will be reached through negotiations,” it added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the regions on Friday, promising Moscow would triumph in its “special military operation” even as he faced a potentially serious new military reversal.
His proclamation came after Russia held what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions in response.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said on Friday his country had submitted a fast-track application to join the NATO military alliance and that he would not hold peace talks with Russia while Putin was still president.


UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania
Updated 01 October 2022

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania
  • According to UN OCHA, at least 19 people have died, 38,000 people have been affected

The UAE sent a plane carrying food items on Friday to various cities and villages affected by the torrential rains that recently struck southern and eastern Mauritania, state news agency WAM reported. 

Since late July, heavy rainfall and widespread floods hit several parts of Mauritania. According to UN OCHA, at least 19 people have died, 38,000 people have been affected, and almost 4,000 houses destroyed.

“The provision of these supplies reflects the strong relations between the two countries and underscores the UAE’s humanitarian role in providing relief to those in need and those affected by disasters that threaten food security,” said Hamad Ghanem al-Mehairi, UAE Ambassador to Mauritania. 

The UAE previously sent aid to Mauritania in April 2021, as well as medical aid to support the country's efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.


Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem
Updated 01 October 2022

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem
  • A few days before his arrest on September 29, Shervin Hajipour posted the moving song on Instagram
  • Iranian authorities have also arrested female artist Donya Rad, Radio Farda reported

DUBAI: Shervin Hajipour, whose viral song became the anthem for anti-government protests in Iran, has been arrested by police with his whereabouts currently unknown.

It was also unclear what were the charges brought against the young singer, news website Radio Farda reported.

A few days before his arrest on September 29, Hajipour posted the moving song on Instagram describing the current situation in the Islamic Republic, which was triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police.

Hajipour’s song had garnered more than 40 million views on Instagram, and has spread on other social media platforms, before it was removed.

The lyrics of Hajipour’s song was woven from tweets posted by Iranians following Amini’s death, many of them blaming the country’s clerical leadership for the current social, economic and political problems.

 

 

“For the shame of having no money,” read one of the tweets in Hajipour’s song.

“For the fear of kissing a lover on the street,” said another tweet.

“For the political prisoners,” another part of the lyrics said.

Iranian authorities have also arrested female artist Donya Rad, Radio Farda reported, after she posted a photo of herself eating out in Tehran without a head scarf and the image going viral on social media.

Rad’s sister claimed Donya was taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.