Search operation underway after Lebanon prison break

Search operation underway after Lebanon prison break
Lebanon’s security forces deploy on a street with access to a detention center under the Adlieh (Palace of Justice) Bridge in Beirut following Sunday’s dawn prison break. (AFP)
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Updated 08 August 2022

Search operation underway after Lebanon prison break

Search operation underway after Lebanon prison break
  • Sunday’s escape ‘reflects magnitude of problems,’ says parliamentary committee chief
  • Police official warns that country’s jails are three times over capacity

BEIRUT: A group of prisoners escaped from a prison in Beirut on Sunday, with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces’ Investigation Unit subsequently arresting four out of 31 escapees a day later.

“Work is underway to arrest the remaining detainees who escaped from Beirut’s prison,” the directorate general of the Internal Security Forces said.

The group of escaped prisoners includes Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and other nationals, he added.

A security source told Arab News that the detainees “managed to saw off the bars of one of the cell’s windows overlooking the street using a screw.”

The prison is located under a bridge close to the Justice Palace in Beirut and is subject to the authority of Lebanon’s prison administration, but was previously controlled by the General Security Service.

A huge organized escape operation took place in the Baabda jail on Nov. 21, 2021, during which five detainees died in a car accident while escaping, and others were detained.

Riots are a frequent event in Lebanese jails, with prisoners demanding better living conditions.

MP Michel Moussa, head of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, questioned how 31 detainees could escape a facility that is presumably guarded and secured.

He told Arab News: “We have not received any answer to this question yet because the investigations are still ongoing.”

The MP added: “We have already asked for this so-called Adlieh prison built a few years ago to be shut down, as it does not provide the bare minimum on all levels. We were promised several times that it will be shut down, but this did not happen.

“What’s certain is that the prison does not meet any human-friendly criteria.

“Apparently, security bodies are using it again as a jail for the detainees of Beirut’s Justice Palace in light of prison overcrowding.”

Moussa added that Sunday’s escape reflected the magnitude of economic, security and judicial issues in Lebanon.

In response to increasing numbers of people being detained without trial, the MP demanded an end to the practice, adding that courts should be reactivated, and that the circumstances in Lebanon do not justify delays.

More than 80 percent of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line due to the acute economic crisis in the country.

As salaries dwindle, the economic crisis has led to a significant number of soldiers and security personnel fleeing from service or resigning to look for other jobs, or even migrate.

Military and security higher-ups are turning a blind eye to the fact that many soldiers and security officers are working second jobs.

Col. Joseph Moussallem, head of the Internal Security Forces’ Public Relations Division, told Arab News that the economic circumstances of police officers “do not affect their line of duty.”

He said that an increased number of arrests shows that crime continues to be under control in Lebanon, but admitted that the reform process had declined in prisons.

According to Internal Security Forces data, many prisoners have long criminal records and have been handed repeat prison sentences.

He added that prison overcrowding was causing problems, although “we are doing whatever it takes to carry out reforms and civil organizations are trying to help.”

Moussallem said that state and private property thefts were among the most frequent offenses taking place in the country.

On Sunday, residents in Hermel in Bekaa protested outside a store in the city following an armed robbery and shooting.

Residents blocked a road and carried signs that said: “Enforce security. Do not cover for perpetrators. Prosecute them and refer them to courts so they can receive the appropriate punishment.”

Sheikh Ali Taha, the mufti of Hermel, said: “What’s happening in the region is a weird phenomenon.”

He called on officials to urgently intervene and reduce crime in order to avoid the threat of vigilante justice.

In the Lebanese northern region of Koura, the Association of Olive Farmers denounced “the theft of seasonal crops in the region.”

In a statement, the association said that “every morning, a group of professional thieves pick our unripe crops and steal iron barrels, electric wires, iron fences and beehives. We can no longer stand this.”

Col. Moussallem estimated the total number of prisoners and detainees in the country to be about “9,000 individuals,” adding that Lebanon’s prisons were designed to only house about 3,000 people at maximum capacity.

He said that thefts and other offenses had decreased by 6.5 percent this year compared to last year.


Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis
Updated 59 min 9 sec ago

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis
  • Michel Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October
  • No candidate has emerged as a front-runner among the hopefuls

BEIRUT: The Lebanese parliament met Thursday to elect a new president, with no consensus on a successor to outgoing head of state Michel Aoun despite an unpredecedented financial crisis.
Deep divisions among MPs have raised fears Lebanon could be left without a president for months after Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October, further undermining creditor confidence.
The incumbent’s own election in 2016 came after a 29-month vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts to reach consensus on a candidate.
Under Lebanon’s longstanding confessional power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.
No candidate has emerged as a front-runner but among the hopefuls are Aoun’s own son-in-law Gebran Bassil, a former foreign minister who is under US sanctions, and veteran politician Sleiman Frangieh.
Ahead of Thursday’s session, it was not even certain enough MPs would turn up to allow a vote to go ahead but in the event quorum was achieved with 104 members of the 128-seat parliament attending, the state NNA news agency reported.
In the first round of voting, a two-thirds majority of 86 votes is required for a candidate to win, an unlikely feat in a divided legislature.
If the election goes to a second round, the required majority falls to 65, but few expect event that margin to be achieved either, fanning fears for the economy.
“If there is a political vacuum, the economic crisis would intensify and there is a clear risk of security incidents,” said analyst Karim Bitar.
The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value on the black market since 2019 in a financial meltdown branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times.
The crisis has plunged more than 80 percent of the population into poverty, as food prices have risen by 2,000 percent, the United Nations has said.
The international community has pressed Lebanese lawmakers to elect a new president in “timely” fashion to avoid plunging the country deeper into crisis
Last week, France, Saudi Arabia and the United States issued a joint statement urging MPs to “elect a president who can unite the Lebanese people.”
“As Lebanon’s parliament prepares to elect a new president, we stress the importance of timely elections in compliance with the constitution,” the statement said.


Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest
Updated 29 September 2022

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest
  • A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone

BAGHDAD: Four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad on Thursday landed around the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, police said, as political unrest intensified.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes and no claim of responsibility, two police officers said. A number of Shiite Muslim militant groups have offices and supporters in eastern Baghdad.
A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone, and appeared to add a new dimension to a contest among power-hungry politicians.
Rocket attacks on the Green Zone have been regular in recent years but they are normally directed at Western targets by Iran-backed militia groups.
Those attacks have been rare in recent months. Wednesday’s attack took place as parliament was holding a vote to confirm its speaker.
The political crisis has left Iraq without a government for nearly a year after elections last October.
The crisis broadly pits the powerful populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, a political, religious and militia leader, against an array of mostly Iran-aligned political and militant groups.
Sadr, the biggest winner of the election, withdrew all his lawmakers from parliament in June and has sworn not to let parliament convene, fearing other parties will form a government without him.
The standoff spiralled into street clashes killing dozens of people in central Baghdad in August. Many Iraqis fear the same could happen again.


Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets
Updated 29 September 2022

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets
  • Eurofighter Typhoon fleet aims to enhance the combat readiness of the Kuwait Air Force

DUBAI: Kuwait’s military said it received two more Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 jets, making it the third batch out of a total of 28 aircraft the country has ordered, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.
The jets, one of the latest multi-role fighters, characterized by electronic warfare and high-speed response capabilities, aim to enhance the combat readiness of the Kuwait Air Force, the air force said in a statement.
The jets that Kuwait has received so far have achieved 100 flying hours, the statement added.
A ceremony was held at the Ali Al-Salem Al-Sabah Air Base to mark the aircraft’s landing, according to KUNA.


Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region
Updated 29 September 2022

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region
  • Iraq’s state agency reported 58 injuries as a result of the attacks

DUBAI: Yemen’s government has condemned the attacks carried out by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which has seen 13 reported deaths.

Yemen has accused Iran of targeting ‘security and stability in the region in a miserable attempt to create an external crisis for internal reasons’, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement released on state agency SABA.
It also said the Iranian regime ‘seeks to veer attention off the renewing revolution’ by the Iranian people against the government in Tehran.
“In this regard, the Yemeni government is following with great concern the excessive use of force and brutal repression by the Iranian regime against the brotherly Iranian people, and affirms its support for the people and their aspirations to achieve their legitimate rights to freedom, dignity and equal citizenship,” the statement added.
Iraq’s state agency reported 58 injuries as a result of the attacks, which occurred near Irbil and Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iran launched the attacks after the country’s authorities accused armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents of being involved in the unrest currently shaking the country, especially in the northwest.


Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’

Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’
Updated 29 September 2022

Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’

Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’
  • Iranian government had been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them

DUBAI: Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been arrested in Tehran by security forces for ‘inciting riots’ that were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while on police custody.

Before her arrest, Hashemi had said that the Iranian government has been referring to the protests for the past days as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them, was used as the basis for her detention, news website Radio Farda reported.

Amini, who is Kurdish, was visiting Tehran with her family to visit relatives when she was accosted by the notorious morality police for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress code – including wearing of the hijab or head covering – and eventually arrested.

Her relatives claimed the beatings Amini received from the morality police, including a violent blow to the head that caused her death.

“What [authorities] want to convey is that these are not protests, they’re riots, but in fact they are protests,” Radio Farda quoted Hashemi in an audio recording it obtained.

“Those who have seen the protests know that, for example, if the youth set fire to garbage cans, it’s because the [security forces] have used tear gas and they want to neutralize it; or when they beat a member of the security forces it’s because they have been attacked and they’re defending themselves,” she said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of academics issued an open letter urging feminist communities to join them in building transnational solidarity with women and marginalized groups in Iran.

The letter was signed by academics including those from universities in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia who said that the death of Amini was ‘among many other state murders committed systemically and purposefully by the gender-apartheid regime of Iran.’

“This country-wide revolt is against not only the brutal murder of Mahsa but also the essence of the Islamic regime,” the letter said. “The demand is loud and clear: an end to a theocratic regime whose multi-faceted violence against marginalized bodies is manifested in Mahsa’s death.”