Lebanese journalist released after overnight detention

The Daily Star

Kareem Chehayeb

Detention cases

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Lebanese journalist Fidaa Itani was released Tuesday following an interrogation at the Internal Security Forces Cybercrimes Bureau and overnight detention at a police station. Itani told The Daily Star that he was released 2 p.m., and revealed that the legal complaint was over a Facebook post. "They wanted me to make a formal apology to the post," he added. "But eventually all I had to do was take down the post, which I was fine with.” The Facebook post written on June 30, in Arabic condemned the Lebanese Army's treatment of Syrian refugees. "Running over a child. Raids...Detaining hundreds. Forcefully returning people to Syria...The dump of Michel Aoun and armed forces following Hezbollah's fascism...," part of his post read. The journalist added that several other accusations were made against him which he "vehemently denied." Itani also claimed that the head of the bureau made accusations against him based on other social media posts, which were not covered in the initial legal complaint, including one post on a Syrian who died in military custody in Arsal last week. However, "no action was taken because the legal complaint was only made regarding the initial post." Head of the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau Maj. Suzan Hajj Hobeish was not available for comments. Itani added that he spent the night in an "overcrowded" cell at an unnamed police station "because the prisons were full." Hours before his interrogation on Monday, Itani shared a blog post announcing that he was set to be interrogated “for a case that has not officially been disclosed to me yet.” His brother, Houssam, told The Daily Star that he was summoned following a legal complaint filed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. The Foreign Ministry declined to comment when contacted Monday. The journalist has been outspoken over the recent incident in which four Syrian refugees died in military custody after an attack on a military raid on refugee camps in northeast Lebanon’s Arsal. In the post he criticized the Lebanese Army, President Michel Aoun, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, among other Lebanese officials and politicians for being complicit in corruption and dereliction of duty allowing the deaths in custody to take place. In response to a series of attacks from militants on June 30, the Lebanese Army arrested 355 refugees in Arsal. The Army said that four refugees died in custody due to pre-existing health conditions that were exacerbated by the weather conditions. Prime Minister Saad Hariri said during last week’s Cabinet session that a military investigation would take place. Hariri reiterated the news Monday following a meeting with Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and Army head Gen. Joseph Aoun. Hariri added that he would receive the results of the investigation within “two or three days.”

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