Lebanon detainees stuck in limbo as judges’ strike drags on

Lebanon detainees stuck in limbo as judges’ strike drags on
This file photo taken on August 30, 2022, shows an empty court room in Lebanon’s Justice Palace in the capital Beirut. (AFP)
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Updated 08 December 2022

Lebanon detainees stuck in limbo as judges’ strike drags on

Lebanon detainees stuck in limbo as judges’ strike drags on
  • Judges have suspended their work as rampant inflation eats away at their salaries, paralysing the judiciary and leaving detainees in limbo
  • Bureaucracy and rampant corruption have long delayed verdicts and judicial proceedings in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Taxi driver Youssef Daher has languished for months in prison without charge, one of scores stuck after Lebanese judges launched an open-ended strike in August to demand better wages in a collapsed economy.
Judges have suspended their work as rampant inflation eats away at their salaries, paralysing the judiciary and leaving detainees in limbo — the latest outcome of Lebanon’s years-long financial crisis.
From his jail cell in the northern city of Tripoli, Daher sends daily messages to his lawyer asking him whether judges have ended what is already the longest strike for their profession in Lebanese history.
“My family lost their sole breadwinner and must now rely on aid to survive,” he told AFP.
Daher has not seen his wife and three children since he was arrested eight months ago because they cannot afford transportation to get to the prison, he said.
Security forces arrested Daher after he gave a ride to a passenger accused of kidnapping — unbeknownst to him, he said.
Authorities did not press charges against Daher after questioning, so his lawyer requested his release. Then judges began their strike.
His request has been pending ever since.
Bureaucracy and rampant corruption have long delayed verdicts and judicial proceedings in Lebanon, where 8,000 people are estimated to be jailed, most of them awaiting a verdict.
But now, underfunded public institutions have taken a hit after the country’s economy went into free-fall in 2019, with basic state services like renewing passports or completing a real estate transaction often taking months to complete.
Although judges’ salaries are expected to triple as part of Lebanon’s 2022 budget, their wages are currently worth only around $160 on average due to soaring inflation.
“How can a judge live with his family on such a salary?” one striker asked, adding that some of his colleagues with chronic illnesses could no longer afford medication.
“Judges were forced to launch this strike because their financial situation has become unbearable,” he said.
Judges who spoke to AFP said they also wanted better working conditions as they had been forced to toil without electricity or running water and buy their own office supplies like pens and paper.
Lebanon’s state electricity provider produces an hour of daily power on average, forcing residents to rely on private generators that public institutions often cannot afford.
The judges’ strike has compounded an already bleak reality for detainees, many of whom spend months or years awaiting a verdict.
Lawyer Jocelyn Al-Rai said her client, a Syrian youth, was arrested two months ago on drug trafficking charges without a warrant and has yet to face questioning, because the public prosecutor’s office has stopped working.
Despite the strike, certain courts continue to function.
In Beirut on Thursday, a criminal court sentenced Hassan Dekko, a man known as the “Captagon King,” to seven years in prison with hard labor for producing and trafficking the stimulant, a judicial source said. Dekko had been arrested in April last year.
Yet the judges’ strike is also contributing to overcrowding in the already cramped prisons, stretching detention facilities that have seen increasing numbers of escape attempts, a source at the Palace of Justice in the Beirut suburb of Baabda told AFP.
“About 350 people used to be released from prison every month... that number has now been reduced to about 25,” said the source, adding that most are released after “mediators intervene with the judge handling the case.”
About 13 inmates who completed their sentences two and a half months ago have been stuck in the Palace of Justice’s cells because criminal courts have not met to sign off their release, he added.
A judicial source who declined to be named said detainees were bearing the brunt of the strike’s knock-on effects.
“Judges have a right to a decent life,” he said, but “detainees are also suffering from injustice, even those whose only crime was stealing a loaf of bread.”


Palestinian President Abbas blames Israel for violence

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas welcomes US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah, on January 31, 2023. (AFP)
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas welcomes US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah, on January 31, 2023. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 36 sec ago

Palestinian President Abbas blames Israel for violence

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas welcomes US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah, on January 31, 2023. (AFP)
  • Abbas called for “the complete cessation of unilateral Israeli actions, which violate the signed agreements and international law”

JERUSALEM: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel on Tuesday for a sharp escalation of violence in the West Bank as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged calm on both sides and reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to a two state solution.
Calling for “the complete cessation of unilateral Israeli actions, which violate the signed agreements and international law,” Abbas reiterated the Palestinians’ longstanding demand for Israel to end its occupation.
“We are now ready to work with the US administration and the international community to restore political dialogue in order to end the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said in a statement.


US curbs exports to Iranian firms for helping Russia with drones

US curbs exports to Iranian firms for helping Russia with drones
Updated 7 sec ago

US curbs exports to Iranian firms for helping Russia with drones

US curbs exports to Iranian firms for helping Russia with drones

WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday added seven Iranian entities to its trade blacklist for contributing to Russia’s military efforts by helping with the production of drones for use in Ukraine, according a posting by the US Department of Commerce.
The entities are Design and Manufacturing of Aircraft Engines, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization, Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company, Paravar Pars Company, Qods Aviation Industry, and Shahed Aviation Industries.
The Commerce Department posting said the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) produced are being transferred to Russia for use in Ukraine, activity that is contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests. 


Iran jails couple in viral dancing video: Activists

Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi were arrested in early November. (Twitter)
Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi were arrested in early November. (Twitter)
Updated 32 min 57 sec ago

Iran jails couple in viral dancing video: Activists

Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi were arrested in early November. (Twitter)
  • A revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced them each to 10 years and six months in prison
  • HRANA cited sources close to their families as saying they had been deprived of lawyers during the court proceedings

PARIS: An Iranian court has handed jail sentences of over 10 years each to a young couple who danced in front of one of Tehran’s main landmarks in a video seen as a symbol of defiance against the regime, activists said on Tuesday.
Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, both in their early 20s, had been arrested in early November after a video went viral of them dancing romantically in front of the Azadi Tower in Tehran.
Haghighi did not wear a headscarf in defiance of the Islamic republic’s strict rules for women, while women are also not allowed to dance in public in Iran, let alone with a man.
A revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced them each to 10 years and six months in prison, as well as bans on using the Internet and leaving Iran, the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said.
The couple, who already had a following in Tehran as popular Instagram bloggers, were convicted of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” as well as “gathering with the intention of disrupting national security,” it added.
HRANA cited sources close to their families as saying they had been deprived of lawyers during the court proceedings while attempts to secure their release on bail have been rejected.
It said Haghighi is now in the notorious Qarchak prison for women outside Tehran, whose conditions are regularly condemned by activists.
Iranian authorities have clamped down severely on all forms of dissent since the death in September of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the headscarf rules, sparked protests that have turned into a movement against the regime.
At least 14,000 people have been arrested, according to the United Nations, ranging from prominent celebrities, journalists and lawyers to ordinary people who took to the streets.
The couple’s video had been hailed as a symbol of the freedoms demanded by the protest movement, with Ahmadi at one moment lifting his partner in the air as her long hair flowed behind.
One of the main icons of the Iranian capital, the gigantic and futuristic Azadi (Freedom) Tower is a place of huge sensitivity.
It opened under the rule of the last shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the early 1970s when it was known as the Shahyad (In Memory of the Shah) Tower.
It was renamed after the shah was ousted in 1979 with the creation of the Islamic republic. Its architect, a member of the Bahai faith which is not recognized in today’s Iran, now lives in exile.


Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  
Updated 31 January 2023

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

The President of the Arab Parliament, Adel bin Abd al-Rahman al-Asoumi, met with the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Chief Fortune Charumbira on Tuesday.  

The officials met on the sidelines of the Conference of the Union of Councils of Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Algeria, a statement by the Arab Parliament said. 

The two sides reviewed regional and international interests, and agreed on full coordination in international forums in support of all Arab and African matters.  

The Speaker of the Arab Parliament affirmed that the Arab and African regions possess many common denominators that contribute to supporting Arab and African matters, especially the Palestinian issue and the Libyan crisis.


Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials
Updated 31 January 2023

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials
  • The attack was carried out on a car in Marib province

YEMEN, Marib: Three alleged Al-Qaeda militants were killed in a suspected US drone strike in northeastern Yemen on Monday, local government officials said.
The attack was carried out on a car in Marib province, the scene of heavy fighting in 2021 in Yemen's long-running civil war, the officials said.
“Three Al-Qaeda members were killed in a strike by a drone that is believed to be American,” a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The three were in a car in Wadi Obeida when they were targeted by the suspected US strike that killed them immediately.”
A second Marib government official confirmed the strike on Al-Qaeda militants and the death toll. There was no immediate comment from Washington.
The United States considers Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch - Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - among the most dangerous branches of the global jihadist network.
AQAP, and other militants loyal to Daesh, have thrived in the chaos of Yemen’s civil war.
AQAP has carried out operations against both the Houthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad.
Its leaders have been targeted by a US drone war for more than two decades, although the number of strikes has dropped off in recent years.
The conflict in Yemen has since killed tens of thousands of people and triggered what the United Nations terms the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced.