Lebanese judge leaves central bank governor under investigation

Special Lebanese judge leaves central bank governor under investigation
Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during a news conference, Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 July 2023
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Lebanese judge leaves central bank governor under investigation

Lebanese judge leaves central bank governor under investigation
  • July 31 expiration of Salameh’s term will bring to an end a 30-year tenure stained by recent charges at home and abroad of embezzlement of Lebanese public funds
  • Legal representatives of Lebanese journalist Dima Sadek are preparing to file an appeal against the verdict issued on Tuesday sentencing her to one year in prison

BEIRUT: Charbel Abu Samra, the first investigative judge in Beirut, on Wednesday left the central bank's governor, Riad Salameh, under investigation to complete the probe he is facing along with his brother Raja Salameh and his assistant Marianne Hoayek.

The July 31 expiration of Salameh’s term will bring to an end a 30-year tenure stained by recent charges at home and abroad of embezzlement of Lebanese public funds. Salameh denies the charges. Caretaker Premier Najib Mikati has said that he will not extend Salameh’s term.

A French and German judicial delegation, including the Munich prosecutor, held meetings at the Palace of Justice in Beirut, requesting the Lebanese state to raid the central bank, with the participation of the delegation, to search for documents related to Salameh and Hoayek as part of European investigations into financial corruption.

Riad and Raja Salameh, along with Hoayek, went to the Palace of Justice in Beirut with their defense lawyers and appeared before Judge Abu Samra to be interrogated as part of internal Lebanese investigations.

They have been accused of crimes including “embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, forgery, use of forged documents, illicit enrichment, violation of the employment law, and tax evasion.”

Raja Salameh and Hoayek left shortly after their interrogation session, while Riad Salameh’s interrogation continued for three hours in the presence of his lawyer, Hafez Zakhour, and the head of the litigation department at the Ministry of Justice, Helana Iskandar.

A judicial source told Arab News that Riad Salameh answered all questions and pledged to bring documents in the next session to prove what he had stated on Wednesday. The source said that Salameh might be required for a third interrogation session.

Salameh is considered a suspect in the Lebanese investigations until a decision is made to formally charge him. He is facing European judicial investigations for corruption, forgery, and forming a criminal gang to launder money and embezzle funds.

Earlier this month, a hearing was held by the French judiciary with Salameh’s former assistant, Hoayek, appearing in court in Paris on charges of forming a criminal gang and money laundering as part of an organized gang. However, Hoayek denied the charges and said that her wealth was a gift from her father.

The French judiciary suspects that Hoayek played a prominent role in an alleged criminal scheme to assist Salameh in accumulating real estate and financial assets and using Lebanese public funds illegally through a complex financial scheme.

The French judiciary ordered the judicial supervision of Hoayek and banned her from communicating with or working at the central bank of Lebanon, and obliged her to pay a financial guarantee of €1.5 million ($1.69 million).

Riad and Raja Salameh both failed to attend the hearing sessions scheduled for them in Paris.

Separately, legal representatives of Lebanese journalist Dima Sadek are preparing to file an appeal against the verdict issued on Tuesday sentencing her to one year in prison in a lawsuit filed by the Free Patriotic Movement on charges of defamation, stripping her of civil rights and imposing a fine of 110 million Lebanese pounds ($7,326).

Protests against the judicial verdict continued on Wednesday, as it is the first of its kind to be issued by a criminal judge in Beirut against a journalist or media figure. The journalistic body is usually tried in similar cases before the Press Court, which does not issue prison sentences.

Members of the parliamentary committee on media and telecommunications, which met on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Hezbollah MP Ibrahim Al-Mousawi, disagreed on issuing a recommendation to support media freedoms. Al-Mousawi said that there was a need for responsibility in exercising freedom.

MP Paula Yacoubian withdrew from the session, considering that “what Sadek has been subjected to is an unfair verdict, and we demand an independent judiciary law. We have asked the committee on media and telecommunications to condemn what happened and denounce the attack on media freedom.”

MP Saad Al-Asmar, of the Lebanese Forces Party, said: “Today’s division in the parliamentary committee on media is shameful, as we could not come up with a consensus to condemn the unjust judicial decisions against the media and journalists, especially the verdict to imprison Sadek, which we consider a blatant attack on freedom of expression and opinion guaranteed by the constitution.”

FPM praised the verdict issued against Sadek, accusing her of “fabricating lies and falsely accusing the FPM youth of being racists and accusing the movement of being a Nazi party.”

Sadek described FPM as a Nazi party in a tweet in 2020.


Arab League urges aid for Gaza, condemns deprivation as ‘death sentence’

Arab League urges aid for Gaza, condemns deprivation as ‘death sentence’
Updated 5 sec ago
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Arab League urges aid for Gaza, condemns deprivation as ‘death sentence’

Arab League urges aid for Gaza, condemns deprivation as ‘death sentence’
  • Israel responsible for blocking aid, which is form of ‘collective punishment,’ says Arab League official

CAIRO: The Arab League has called for urgent aid to be sent to Gaza and condemned those attempting to block this support.

The Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said at the organization’s headquarters on Sunday that the blocking of aid was passing a “death sentence” on the Palestinian people, and was a form of “collective punishment.”

Aboul Gheit made the comments during a meeting on Sunday with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s under-secretary-general and senior coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza, according to a report by Jordan’s news agency Petra, quoting an Arab League statement.

Jamal Rushdi, spokesperson for the secretary-general, said there was a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and that Israel was responsible for blocking much-needed aid.

Aboul Gheit and Kaag called for an immediate ceasefire, for the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza to support reconstruction efforts, and coordination by the international community to deliver aid.

This appeal was made during the Arab League’s commemoration of Arab Water Day 2024, themed “Save Water. Save Life.”

There was a water crisis in Gaza, exacerbated by Israel’s military actions targeting vital sanitation infrastructure, which could cause the outbreak of disease, the Arab League stated in its release.


French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence
Updated 48 min 32 sec ago
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French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

AMMAN: The ⁠French ambassador to Jordan has pledged ongoing financial assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency.

During a meeting with the Jordanian-French Friendship Committee of the Senate, Alexis Le Cour Grandmaison highlighted the need to prioritize a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and curb settler violence in the West Bank.

Grandmaison reiterated France’s support for UN resolutions concerning Gaza and pledged ongoing financial assistance to UNRWA, reported Jordanian news agency Petra.

The ambassador praised Jordan’s efforts in providing aid to Gaza and lauded King Abdullah II’s stance on the Palestinian issue and Israel-Hamas war. He also reiterated his country’s support of Jordan’s role in ensuring regional peace and stability and backing for its custodianship of holy sites in Jerusalem.

Senator Issa Murad stressed a ceasefire in Gaza was urgently needed and commended King Abdullah II’s humanitarian efforts to alleviate conditions there. He emphasized the importance of international support for UNRWA.

The committee urged France to increase aid to Gaza and to use its influence on the international stage, particularly in the UN Security Council, to address the Palestinian question and end the Gaza conflict.


Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say

Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say
Updated 56 min 56 sec ago
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Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say

Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say
  • Witnesses in Ramallah said Israeli forces had driven dozens of military vehicles into the city
  • Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Mustafa Abu Shalbak while raiding Am’ari refugee camp

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces swept into the Palestinians’ administrative capital of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank overnight, killing a 16-year-old in a refugee camp during their biggest raid into the city in years, Palestinian sources said on Monday.
Witnesses in Ramallah said Israeli forces had driven dozens of military vehicles into the city, which is the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Mustafa Abu Shalbak while raiding Am’ari refugee camp.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA said confrontations broke out as Israeli forces stormed the camp, “during which live bullets were fired at Palestinian youths,” wounding Abu Shalbak in the neck and chest.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Violence has surged across the West Bank in parallel to the Gaza war, with at least 400 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers, and Israel regularly raiding Palestinian areas across the territory it occupied in 1967.
Israeli forces also tore up a main road in the West Bank city of Tulkarm during a raid there, witnesses said.
WAFA also reported that Israeli forces had stormed the West Bank city of Nablus, and blew up the home of a man previously accused by Israel of carrying out an attack in which a British-Israeli mother and her two daughters were killed in April in the West Bank.
The man, Moaz Al-Masri, was killed by Israeli forces in Nablus last May.
Israeli forces detained at least 55 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank overnight, according to The Palestinian Prisoners Club.


Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza

Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza
Updated 04 March 2024
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Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza

Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza
  • Ankara has no direct involvement in truce talks

ANKARA: President Tayyip Erdogan is set to discuss Turkiye’s efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during talks this week in Ankara, a Turkish diplomatic source said on Monday.
Speaking at a diplomatic forum in Turkiye at the weekend, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad-al Al-Maliki said Abbas would pay a visit to Ankara on Tuesday and meet Erdogan.
Turkiye, which has harshly criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire. But Ankara has no direct involvement in truce talks.
Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, NATO member Turkiye does not view Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which runs Gaza and on Oct. 7 carried out an attack inside Israel that prompted the Israeli campaign, as a terrorist organization.
Erdogan and Abbas will discuss recent developments in Gaza as well as the situation in the West Bank, the diplomatic source said.
“Turkiye has been delivering extensive humanitarian aid to Gaza in coordination with Egypt since the beginning of Israel’s attacks... Within this scope, humanitarian aid operations will also be discussed during the meetings with President Abbas,” the source said.


UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war

UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war
Updated 04 March 2024
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UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war

UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war
  • The war in Gaza had already spilled over in neighboring countries
  • Turk said last week that war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas

GENEVA: The United Nations human rights chief on Monday it was imperative to avoid any exacerbation of the war in Gaza, warning that any conflagration could have broad repercussions across the Middle East and beyond the region.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Volker Turk said the war in Gaza, which has been raging since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas gunmen in southern Israel, had already spilled over in neighboring countries.
“I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration,” said Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“This would have implications for every country in the Middle East, and many beyond it.”
Turk described the military escalation in southern Lebanon between Israel, Hezbollah and other armed groups as “extremely worrying.”
“It is imperative to do everything possible to avoid a wider conflagration,” he said.
The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have been locked in hostilities for months in parallel to the Gaza war. It has marked the worst conflict between them since 2006.
The Gaza war began when Hamas stormed Israel on Oct. 7 in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
The attack drew an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza. Health authorities in the enclave say more than 30,000 Palestinians have been confirmed killed during the offensive.
Turk said last week that war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. They should be investigated and those responsible be held accountable, he said.