Lebanon has 28 days to present rescue plan

Riot police fire tear gas against the protesters, during a protest against the new government, in downtown Beirut, as the Hassan Diab government struggles to resolve the crises in the country. (AP)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Lebanon has 28 days to present rescue plan

  • UN special coordinator for Lebanon tells PM Diab: ‘Most important step to take is reforms, reforms, and reforms’

Lebanon has 28 days to prepare a statement showing how it will resolve its crises following a meeting Friday between the UN’s special coordinator for the country and Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis met Diab and reiterated that the most important step that should be taken was “reforms, reforms, and reforms, break up with previous corruption practices, adopt transparency, reestablish trust, and listen to the demands of people demonstrating in the streets in order to win their confidence.”

The government has 28 days to prepare its statement, which includes a plan to address the turmoil coursing through Lebanon.

The formation of a new government earlier this week ended months of political deadlock following Saad Hariri’s resignation as prime minister in October in response to mass protests over corruption and mismanagement.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said the ministerial committee tasked with drafting the statement intended to promptly issue it as there were “pressing internal and external situations, and the crisis is getting more aggravated.”

Hundreds of people were injured in Beirut last weekend after security personnel fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at demonstrators who threw stones, attempted to invade the Parliament building, and attacked bank offices and shops. 

There were also recent clashes between activists and supporters of the Amal Movement, which is associated with the country’s Shiite community. People wanting to protest corruption outside a public institution in the southern part of the capital were targeted by knife and stick-wielding men.

“Young men attacked us and accused us of being spies and agents, then started beating women and men alike,” said one activist. “We fled in every direction and the guards of a major store denied us entry to hide, for they feared being attacked by the aggressors.”

Amal’s leadership said the attack was perpetrated without its knowledge and was a “mere improvised reaction” by inhabitants of the area.

But newly appointed Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmy condemned the “brutal attack.” 

“Security services will not hesitate to pursue the aggressors and unveil their identities,” he warned. “We will no longer accept that those who tamper with security continue to violate the rights and dignity of any citizen under any circumstances or pretext, for demonstrations, sit-ins are legitimate rights protected by law.”

There is also anger at the makeup of the new Cabinet, with senior political figures saying it showed that Hezbollah’s takeover of the Lebanese state was complete.

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Hezbollah had become the party with the most authority in Lebanon as it was able to extend its influence, authority and control to the head and members of the government.

“What happened so far will have negative repercussions on the government and its approach to a large number of problems, which have become aggravated since Michel Aoun became president and led to a significant decline in the confidence of citizens in the government and the political class as a whole,” he told Arab News.

The new government did not bring independent ministers as promised, he added. 

Earlier this week former minister Marwan Hamade told Arab News that Hezbollah regained a parliamentary majority in 2018 thanks to an electoral law designed to benefit the pro-Iranian party.

“Now Hezbollah completes its takeover through the new government where we find the fingerprints of the Syrian regime. The majority of the new ministers in key positions depend either on Hezbollah or on the former security chief, the pro-Syrian Jamil Sayyed, or on Gebran Bassil, their ally,” Hamade said.

 


Algerian president’s son acquitted in high-profile corruption case

Updated 51 min 19 sec ago

Algerian president’s son acquitted in high-profile corruption case

  • Khaled Tebboune had been in pre-trial detention since June 2018
  • During his presidential campaign, president Tebboune said incarceration of his son sought to “punish” him

ALGIERS: The son of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has been acquitted in a high-profile corruption case in which a prominent businessman was sentenced to prison, the national radio reported Thursday.
Khaled Tebboune had been in pre-trial detention since June 2018 in connection with alleged influence-peddling involving several senior officials, exposed after a cocaine seizure at an Algerian port.
An Algiers court acquitted him late Wednesday, while the principal accused, Kamel Chikhi, was sentenced to eight years in prison for “paying bribes in exchange for undue services,” in a case relating to construction permits and administrative authorizations.
The prosecutor had called for a two-year prison sentence for Khaled Tebboune, whose father did not have any official role at the time of his arrest.
Chikhi, known as “El Bouchi” (The Butcher), made his fortune in meat imports before becoming involved in property.
He was arrested in June 2018 after the seizure of 700 kilograms (1,500 pounds) of cocaine, found hidden in imported meat.
The investigation exposed a network of influence, with accusations that Chikhi, using cash and property, bought favors from high-level officials, magistrates and others within the regime of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Chikhi was sentenced to 10 years in prison last July on separate bribery charges.
A former mayor and the son of a former prefect were also sentenced Wednesday to six and four years in prison respectively.
While prime minister in 2017, Tebboune had launched an attack on oligarchs close to the state who were awarded huge public contracts.
He was sacked just three months after taking office but went on to win the country’s presidential election last December.
During his presidential campaign, Tebboune said the incarceration of his son sought to “punish” him for his 2017 attack.
Algerians took to the streets over a year ago to demonstrate against ailing Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.
The alleged links between Chikhi and Khaled Tebboune earned Abdelmadjid Tebboune the nickname “cocaine president” within the protest movement, which marked its one-year anniversary on February 22.
Bouteflika resigned in April last year after losing the support of the then-army chief in the face of enormous weekly demonstrations.