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In Lebanon, army courts target anti-government protesters – Washington, District of Columbia

Washington, District of Columbia 2020-11-22 02:30:30 –

Khaldoun Jaber was forcibly taken away by several Lebanese agents in plain clothes when he was participating in an anti-government protest near the presidential palace on the outskirts of Beirut last November.

Beirut (AP) — Cardun Jaber was participating in an anti-government protest last November when several Lebanese agents in plain clothes approached and forcibly removed them near the presidential palace on the outskirts of Beirut.

Demonstrations were part of a wave of protests that swept Lebanon against corruption and tampering by a group of politicians who had monopolized power since the end of the country’s civil war 30 years ago.

Jaber didn’t know that at the time, but Lebanese security forces targeted him for his social media posts criticizing President Michel Aoun. After that, 48 hours of miserable detention continued, during which guards interrogated him and exposed him to physical abuse before letting him go.

“I was beaten and hurt psychologically and morally,” said Jaber. “Three teeth broke and 70% of the hearing in the left ear was lost.”

“I’m still traumatized,” he added.

A year after a major protest struck Lebanon, dozens of protesters were tried in military courts, and human rights attorneys said they violated due process and could not investigate allegations of torture or ill-treatment. .. Defendants said before the military court that the system was being used to intimidate protesters and support Lebanese sectarian rulers.

According to the Legal Agenda, a human rights organization based in Beirut, about 90 civilians have been introduced to the military legal system so far.

“We hope more people will be prosecuted,” said Gida Frangier, a lawyer for the group.

The trial emphasizes the increasing risk of activities in Lebanon. In Lebanon, a series of proceedings and judicial investigations against journalists and critics have undermined the country’s reputation for freedom of speech and tolerance, primarily in the autonomous region’s Arab world.

Justice Minister Marie Claude Nazim declined to request comment. Lebanese authorities usually do not mention why court martial is bringing private cases to trial. Security forces have denied beating or torturing protesters and activists in custody.

Frangieh said security forces had arrested about 1,200 people between the start of the rebel uprising in October 2019 and the end of June. Lebanese authorities have indicted about 200 people, including those referred to military judiciary, surveillance groups have found.

Two months after his arrest, Jaber received official notice that a military prosecutor had charged him with attacking security forces at Barbuda Palace when a plainclothes agent detained him.

“I was shocked when I was called to a military court,” Jaber said.

The trial was not held until the court martial declared to Jaber on October 7 that he was innocent of assaulting security guards, a military crime under Lebanese law, but the second offense of insulting the president. He said he had no jurisdiction over.

Many detained protesters, like Jaber, know that authorities have introduced them to military courts only more than a month after their release. Frangieh said many of these cases were scheduled for hearings in November and December of this year, before the two-week national blockade of the coronavirus pandemic temporarily closed the court.

The Jaber case represents protesters in front of a military court, saying that military prosecutors are an example of how they attempt to claim jurisdiction over civilian cases, usually by filing multiple accusations, including military crimes. But Frangier, who is also part of the lawyer, said. Commission for the defense of protesters.

“There was no evidence,” Frangieh said of Jaber’s assault on the guards. “He was kidnapped during the protest, but was actually targeted for a social media post that criticized the president.”

She added that the military prosecutor’s office closed without investigating the torture complaints filed by Jaber.

According to the legal agenda, military courts usually issue a summary decision on the same day of the trial without issuing an explanation.

“There is really much doubt about the impartiality and arbitrariness of the decisions made by the court,” she said, and when the defendant was convicted, the legal basis for the conviction was not immediately shared with the attorney. Added.

According to Frangieh and another attorney on behalf of the protesters, Ayman Raad, military prosecutors neglected to read the complete case file created from military intelligence reports or suddenly filed charges during the trial. Often withdrawn or changed.

“There is no business in military courts to bring civilians to justice,” said Aya Majisouve, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. The International Human Rights Group has called on the Lebanese parliament to end its annoying practices by passing a law that completely excludes civilians from the jurisdiction of military courts.

Georges Abou Fadel was summoned for a military trial on October 30 after being detained during a protest in the town of Beit Mery, east of Beirut, a year ago. During his trial, military prosecutors ask the judge for time to read the case report, then change the accusation against Abu Fadel from assault on security forces to less accusation to resist nonviolent arrests. I asked.

The court found him innocent, but Abu Fadel knew that more trials would be held “for my friends, protesters, and those seeking his rights.” He said he was not relieved.

Attorneys, rights activists and defendants describe military court prosecutions against opposition parties and other civilians as another node in the network of Lebanese sectarian systems that protect the power of top politicians, not the rights of citizens. I will.

“This is one of the tools used by sectarian parties,” said Abu Fadel, who keeps people loyal for fear of military courts.

According to rights activists, many military court judges are appointed by the Defense Ministry, which undermines the independence of the court’s judiciary. The head of the military court is usually Shiite, and the Supreme Prosecutor is a Maronite Christian.

Lebanon’s reform of the judicial system is “one of the most important demands” of rebel protesters, including the end of military trials against civilians, Mr Lard said.

On November 13, Jad Al Rayess was fined 200,000 Lebanese pounds ($ 132) by the court martial 11 months after security forces detained him in a protest on the Beirut ring road. The court has not yet issued a statement on charges of his conviction.

The 32-year-old said he plans to move from Lebanon.

“We can’t make progress without blood. That’s not what I want to get involved with,” he said.

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Beirut’s Associated Press writer Zeina Karam contributed to this report.

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