Lebanon releases man who held bank employees hostage

Lebanon releases man who held bank employees hostage
Bassam Al-Sheikh Hussein, walked into the bank brandishing a gun demanding his money. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Lebanon releases man who held bank employees hostage

Lebanon releases man who held bank employees hostage
  • It was decided to release Al-Sheikh Hussein on bail and refer his case to the investigating judge in Beirut

BEIRUT: A man who broke into a Beirut bank and held its employees hostage was released on Tuesday by Lebanon’s prosecutor general.

Bassam Al-Sheikh Hussein broke into the Federal Bank last Thursday using a pump-action shotgun and gasoline, threatening to set himself and the place alight if he did not receive his bank deposit in US dollars.

He held employees hostage for about eight hours before the bank responded to his request and gave him $35,000 of his $209,000 deposit.

Roy Madkour, Federal Bank’s lawyer, headed to the public prosecution office Tuesday morning and dropped the bank’s rights. It was then decided to release Al-Sheikh Hussein on bail and refer his case to the investigating judge in Beirut.

Al-Sheikh Hussein headed to his house without meeting the reporters or activists who had gathered outside the Directorate General of the Internal Security Forces’ headquarters to receive him.

Georges Khattar, who waited outside the directorate’s headquarters where Al-Sheikh Hussein was detained to follow up on the situation, told Arab News: “Releasing Al-Sheikh Hussein technically means that he is not subject to prosecution anymore. That is what usually happens.”




Crowds gathered outside the bank to show their support for Bassam Al-Sheikh Hussein. (File/AFP) 

 

Activists and the detainee’s family protested Tuesday morning to demand his release.

Al-Sheikh Hussein did not appoint a lawyer during his detention period. He said he would go on hunger strike if he were not released. He also threatened to hang himself.

The Internal Security Forces had promised Al-Sheikh Hussein that he would be allowed to walk free because of the negotiations inside the bank and after his family received a part of his deposit.

After leaving the bank, however, he was transferred to the Directorate General of the Internal Security Forces. He was questioned about the source of the pump-action shotgun and the circumstances of the break-in.

Al-Sheikh Hussein’s move was praised by those whose dollar deposits have been seized by banks since 2019.

But economic expert Louis Hobeika did not regard the outcome as a “good deal.”

Hobeika told Arab News: “It’s true that the depositor received $35,000 from his bank deposit. However, the bank calculated this amount as per the Sayrafa platform rate.

“This means that the bank deducted $116,000 from Al-Sheikh Hussein’s bank deposit, estimated at $210,000, as it adopted the rate of LBP8,000 against the dollar and then proceeded to sell him the amount for $35,000 as per the rate on the Central Bank’s Sayrafa platform, which is LBP26,000 against the dollar.

“That is, the value of the amount given to the depositor by the bank equals three times the real value of the amount. Al-Sheikh Hussein lost $91,000 of his deposit and only received $35,000.”

He said although Al-Sheikh Hussein was wrong to act the way he did, he had not broken into the bank to steal.

“He wanted to retrieve his deposit and pay his father’s hospital bills. All people have seized deposits in banks. I blame the government, the banks, and the Central Bank for what’s happening. People are being treated unjustly and, for three years now, this injustice has not been addressed.

“How can people facing financial constraints similar to Al-Sheikh Hussein solve their problems if their money is seized by banks and cannot be accessed? If people had access to their deposits, their lives would have been different.”

People and depositors from the southern region of Aytaroun, where Al-Sheikh Hussein is from, protested in solidarity with the detainee. They released a statement calling on the judiciary to “be fair and just and give everyone their due.”

They emphasized the need for people to access their deposits and carried signs that said: “We reject banks and their cartels.”

They also blasted “the wrong economic policies adopted by the political ruling class” supported by successive governments and the banking sector that had caused the “theft” of depositors’ rights.


Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
Updated 29 sec ago

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in attack on his car outside Tehran that Iran has blamed on Israel

TEHRAN: Iran has pressed charges against 14 people for their alleged role in the November 2020 assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, local media reported Sunday.
Fakhrizadeh, who had been under US sanctions for his role in Iran’s nuclear program, was killed in an attack on his car outside Tehran that the Islamic republic has blamed on Israel.
Tehran’s chief prosecutor Ali Salehi announced that “14 people were indicted” in the case, according to Tasnim news agency, without naming them.
The charges against them include “corruption on earth,” aiding “espionage for the Zionist regime,” “colluding with the purpose of disrupting national security” and “actions against national security,” Salehi said.
Iran claims that the bombing and shooting attack that killed Fakhrizadeh was carried out by a remote-controlled machine gun.
Israel has never commented on the killing. In 2018, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that Fakhrizadeh had led Iran’s efforts to build an atomic bomb, a claim Iran has always vehemently denied.


Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister
Updated 9 min 47 sec ago

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

DUBAI: HAYASHI Yoshimasa, minister of foreign affairs of Japan, and Sameh Shoukry, minister of foreign affairs of Egypt, held a foreign ministers meeting discussing efforts to tackle climate change, methods of controlling the international food crisis, and further enhancing the bilateral relations between both countries on Sept. 22.

The COP27, a conference discussing the current climate situation, will be taking place in Egypt and HAYASHI expressed his hope to collaborate with the government of Egypt to extend efforts to hinder climate change. 

The Japanese minister argued that the root of the existing global food crisis stems from the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Both ministers agreed that cooperation between Japan and Egypt is mandatory to stop the current international food crisis as well as sustaining and enhancing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Minister Shoukry extended his condolences on the passing of the former prime minister and in return HAYASHI expressed his appreciation to the Egyptian president for sending a presidential envoy to attend the state funeral.

The two ministers shared a mutual agreement that both nations are vital partners for each other and encouraged further enhancement of the bilateral relationship. 

Originally published in Arab News Japan


Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
Updated 29 min 49 sec ago

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
  • ‘By the time she reached hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view’

LONDON: Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death in police custody has sparked nationwide protests in Iran, faced torture and psychological abuse before dying, her cousin told Sky News in an exclusive interview.
Erfan Mortezaei, a political activist and Kurdish fighter based in Iraq, told Sky News that Amini had become the “voice of the anger of the Iranian people,” urging the international community to respond appropriately to the regime in Tehran.
In the lead-up to her death on Sept. 16, Amini had been shopping in Tehran with family. Mortezaei said a confrontation occurred with local morality police: “When they saw Mahsa and others they decided her hijab was not correct. Ashkan (Amini’s brother) tried to explain to them they were not in their home city, and were strangers in Tehran, so asked to please take that into consideration and pleaded not to be taken away.
“In the struggle the police officers pepper-sprayed Ashkan in the face and forced Mahsa into the van and took her to the morality police station.” He added: “During the journey to the police station she was tortured and insulted.”
Mortezaei said the physical toll of the torture inflicted during the journey caused Amini to lose her vision and pass out, with an ambulance taking 90 minutes to transport her to a local hospital.
“There is a report from Kasra hospital that says effectively by the time she reached the hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view. She suffered a concussion from a blow to the head,” he added.
Mortezaei said his family had been pressured by regime officials to appear on state TV to deny their claims of torture and abuse. 
But steps by the regime to curtail public anger failed, with “Mahsa’s death becoming a spark for this protest movement across Iran and Kurdistan.”
President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility.”
The country’s police chief Hossein Ashtari also sent out a public message warning against demonstrations.


Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96
Updated 38 min 18 sec ago

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

DUBAI: Youssef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian controversial cleric who was seen as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group, has died at the age of 96, his official website said Monday. 

He died in Qatar, where he had been living in exile since 2013. Al-Qaradawi had been tried and sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt. 


Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests
Updated 36 min 45 sec ago

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

BERLIN: Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday over a crackdown on nationwide protests that were sparked by the death of a woman in custody, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Asked about the possibility of further sanctions on Tehran in response to the unrest, the spokesperson said “we will consider all options” with other European Union states.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of the 22-year-old in custody.