Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh

Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh
Prosecutors in Beirut decided not to arrest the former governor of the Banque Du Liban, Riad Salameh, after a dispute was filed by his attorney on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 August 2023
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Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh

Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh
  • A judicial source told Arab News the Salameh investigation has been frozen in a manner similar to how the Beirut Port explosion investigation was frustrated and halted

BEIRUT: Prosecutors in Beirut decided not to arrest the former governor of the Banque Du Liban, Riad Salameh, after a dispute was filed by his attorney on Tuesday.

The Indictment Division communicated its decision to the head of the Cases Authority at the Ministry of Justice, Judge Helena Iskandar, having accepted the appeal submitted by the judge against leaving Salameh under investigation after he was questioned a few weeks ago.

Charbel Abu Samra, the first investigative judge in Beirut, left Salameh under investigation last month after accusations were made against him, his brother Raja Salameh and former aide Marianne Hoayek over “embezzlement of public money, money laundering, forgery, the use of counterfeiting, illegal enrichment, violation of employment law, and tax evasion.”

Hafez Zakhour, Salameh’s attorney, appeared before the indictment committee and announced that his client “will not attend the session held by the Division to decide whether or not to arrest him.”

Instead, Zakhour filed a lawsuit against the Indictment Division, saying Salameh was being “investigated for alleged and unrealistic crimes.”

He continued: “The Indictment Division, as an appellate reference for the decisions of the investigating judge, is not entitled to take over the file and invite the defendant to a session before it in order to interrogate him or expand the investigation with him. The Indictment Division’s decision can be considered null and void. The Division cannot interrogate a defendant who is still undergoing interrogation before the investigative judge (Samra). Otherwise, we would be before two judicial authorities who interrogate the same defendant in the same case before one of them decides the fate of arresting or leaving the defendant.”

A judicial source told Arab News the Salameh investigation has been frozen in a manner similar to how the Beirut Port explosion investigation was frustrated and halted.

“Salameh is still a suspect in the Lebanese investigations, despite the accusation against him, until an indictment is issued that may make him an accused (party),” the source said.

“What is happening in this file is similar to what happened in the file of investigations into the crime of the Beirut Port explosion, which was also frozen a year ago due to the lawsuits filed against the judicial investigator in the crime, Judge Tarek Bitar, by several ministers and MPs, who were defendants in the investigation.”

Salameh’s mandate as governor of the BDL expired at the end of July, and security services have not been able to notify him since then of dates for his questioning sessions, under the pretext of not being able to find his place of residence in Lebanon.

The Lebanese judiciary confiscated Salameh’s Lebanese and French passports and prevented him from traveling on May 24, the day after authorities received a red notice from Interpol based on French and German arrest warrants against him.

Salameh is facing European investigations on charges of corruption, forgery, the formation of a gang for money laundering, and embezzlement of public funds in Lebanon worth more than $330 million between 2002 and 2021.

A year ago, France, Germany and Luxembourg froze €120 million euros ($129.88 million) of Lebanese assets following an investigation targeting Salameh and those close to him on charges of money laundering.


Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins

Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins
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Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins

Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins
The area near the Syrian border still bears the scars of the fighting that raged there in 2014
A decade on, the self-declared Daesh caliphate across Syria and Iraq is a dark and distant memory

SINJAR, Iraq: When Bassem Eido steps outside his modest village house in Iraq’s Sinjar district, he is reminded of the horrors that befell the majority-Yazidi region during Daesh group’s onslaught a decade ago.
The area near the Syrian border still bears the scars of the fighting that raged there in 2014 — bullet-riddled family homes with pancaked roofs and warning signs of the lethal threat of land mines and war munitions.
It was here that the militants committed some of their worst atrocities, including mass executions and sexual slavery, before a fightback driven by Kurdish forces dislodged them from the town of Sinjar by the following year.
A decade on, the self-declared Daesh caliphate across Syria and Iraq is a dark and distant memory, but the pain is raw in Eido’s largely abandoned village of Solagh, 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
“Out of 80 families, only 10 have come back,” Eido told AFP in the desolate village which was once famed for its flourishing grape vines. “The rest say there are ... no homes to shelter them. Why would they return?“
A walk through Solagh reveals collapsed homes overgrown with wild scrub and the rusting skeletons of destroyed plumbing systems scattered amid the dust and debris.
“How can my heart be at peace?” said Eido, a 20-year-old Yazidi. “There is nothing and no one that will help us forget what happened.”
After liberation, Eido honored his father’s wish to spend his final days at their home and agreed to move back in with him. Their house was ravaged by fire but still standing and could be rebuilt with help from an aid group.
Most people cannot afford to rebuild, said Eido, and some camp in tents in the ruins of their homes. However, if large-scale reconstruction started, he predicted, “everyone would come back.”
Such efforts have been slowed by political infighting, red tape and other structural problems in this remote region of Iraq, a country still recovering from decades of dictatorship, war and instability.
Many who fled the Daesh moved to vast displacement camps, but the federal government this year announced a July 30 deadline to close them.
Baghdad promised financial aid to returning families and has vowed to ramp up reconstruction efforts. The migration ministry said recently that hundreds had returned to their homes.
However, more than 183,000 people from Sinjar remain displaced, the International Organization for Migration said in a recent report.
While most areas have seen “half or fewer” of their residents come back, it said, “13 locations have not recorded returns since 2014.”
Local official Nayef Sido said that villages “are still razed to the ground and the majority of the people haven’t received compensation.”
Some returnees are leaving again because, with no jobs, they cannot make ends meet, he added.
All of this only adds to the plight of the Yazidis, an ethnic and religious minority that suffered the brunt of Daesh atrocities, with thousands killed and enslaved.
In the village of Kojo, Hadla Kassem, a 40-year-old mother of three, said she lost at least 40 members of her family, including her mother, father and brother.
Three years ago, she sought government compensation for her family’s destroyed home, with the support of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), but to no avail.
While she is still hoping for a monthly stipend for the loss of her relatives, she is trapped in a maze of bureaucracy like many others.
Authorities “haven’t opened all the (mass) graves, and the martyrs’ files haven’t been solved, and those in camps haven’t returned,” Kassem said.
“We are devastated... We need a solution.”
In order to entice people to return, said the NRC’s legal officer in Sinjar, Feermena Kheder, “safe and habitable housing is a must, but we also need functional public infrastructure like roads, schools and government buildings.”
“Only with these foundations can we hope to rebuild our lives.”
For now, many residents must travel hours for medical care that is not available at the city’s only hospital.
A local school has been turned into a base for an armed group, while an old cinema has become a military post.
Sinjar has long been at the center of a paralysing struggle for control between the federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan administration based in Irbil.
In 2020, the two sides reached an agreement that included a reconstruction fund and measures to facilitate the return of displaced people. But they have so far failed to implement it.
Adding to the complexities is the tangled web of armed forces operating there today.
It includes the Iraqi military, a Yazidi group affiliated with Turkiye’s foe the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a coalition of pro-Iran ex-paramilitaries now integrated into the regular army.
“All parties want more control, even blocking appointments and hindering” reconstruction efforts, said a security official who requested anonymity.
In 2022, clashes between the army and local fighters forced thousands to flee again.
Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah Sanbar warned that “both Baghdad and Irbil claim authority over Sinjar, but neither is taking responsibility for it.”
“Rather than focus on closing the camps, the government should invest in securing and rebuilding Sinjar to be a place people actually want to return to.”

No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says

No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says
Updated 29 May 2024
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No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says

No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says
  • Rafah was a major entry point for humanitarian relief before Israel stepped up its military offensive on the Gaza side of the border

GENEVA: The Palestinian health minister said on Wednesday there was no indication from Israel that the Rafah crossing, used to bring in essential humanitarian and medical supplies, could be opened soon.
“Since it was closed, we have no indication that the Israelis would like it to be opened any time soon,” the minister, Majed Abu Ramadan, told reporters on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Rafah was a major entry point for humanitarian relief before Israel stepped up its military offensive on the Gaza side of the border earlier this month and seized control of the crossing from the Palestinian side.


Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis

Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis
Updated 29 May 2024
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Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis

Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis
  • Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment
  • Iran is armed with the largest number of ballistic missiles in the region

DUBAI: Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday that Tehran’s sea-launched ballistic missile Ghadr has been made available to Yemen’s Houthis.
“Iran’s sea-launched ballistic missile, named Ghadr, now has been made available to Yemen’s (Houthi) fighters,” — reported Tasnim, which is believed to be affiliated to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
“Now, the missile … has become a weapon capable of presenting serious challenges to the interests of the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime,” Tasnim said.
Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Iran supports the Houthis but has repeatedly denied arming the group.
The Houthis have been attacking shipping lanes in and around the Red Sea to show support for Palestinians in the Gaza war impacting a shipping route vital to trade.
According to the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Iran is armed with the largest number of ballistic missiles in the region. It is also a major producer of drones.


Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’

Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’
Updated 29 May 2024
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Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’

Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’
  • Calls on the ‘Islamic world’ to react after the latest deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza
  • Turkish premier hits out at fellow Muslim-majority countries for failing to take common action over the Israeli strike

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday hit out at the United Nations and called on the “Islamic world” to react after the latest deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza.
“The UN cannot even protect its own staff. What are you waiting for to act? The spirit of the United Nations is dead in Gaza,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his AKP party.
Erdogan’s comments came as the UN Security Council met to discuss a deadly Israeli attack on a displacement camp west of Rafah on Tuesday that killed 21 people, according to a civil defense official in Hamas-run Gaza.
The Turkish premier also hit out at fellow Muslim-majority countries for failing to take common action over the Israeli strike.
“I have some words to say to the Islamic world: what are you waiting for to take a common decision?” Erdogan, who leads a Muslim-majority country of 85 million people, told lawmakers from his AKP party.
“Israel is not just a threat to Gaza but to all of humanity,” he said.
“No state is safe as long as Israel does not follow international law and does not feel bound by international law,” Erdogan added, repeating an accusation that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza.


Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says

Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says
Updated 29 May 2024
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Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says

Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says
  • Israeli forces have kept up their offensive in Rafah, defying an order from the International Court of Justice

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said three soldiers had been killed in combat in southern Gaza on Wednesday, as it pressed ahead with its offensive in Rafah.
Three more soldiers were badly wounded in the same incident, the military said, though it provided no further details. Israel’s public broadcaster Kan radio said they were injured by an explosive device set off in a building in Rafah.
Defying an order from the International Court of Justice, Israeli forces have kept up their offensive in Rafah, where they aim to root out the last major intact formations of Hamas fighters and rescue hostages.
International unease over Israel’s three-week-old Rafah offensive has turned to outrage since an airstrike on Sunday set off a blaze in a tent camp in a western district of the city, killing at least 45 people.
Israel said it had been targeting two senior Hamas operatives and had not intended to cause civilian casualties. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “something unfortunately went tragically wrong.”
The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that munitions stored near a compound targeted by Sunday’s airstrike may have ignited.
Israel told around one million Palestinian civilians displaced by the almost eight-month-old war to evacuate from Rafah before launching its incursion in early May. Around that many have fled the city since then, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
On Tuesday, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah but said it did not believe such an operation was under way.