Judge extends subpoena after Banque du Liban governor skips hearing

Lebanese Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 15 February 2022

Judge extends subpoena after Banque du Liban governor skips hearing

  • Aoun has sought to interrogate Salameh as a witness in several cases alleging financial impropriety

BEIRUT: Judge Ghada Aoun, the state prosecutor of Mount Lebanon, indefinitely extended on Tuesday a subpoena issued earlier this month for Banque du Liban Gov. Riad Salameh after he failed to appear at a hearing.

Aoun has sought to interrogate Salameh as a witness in several cases alleging financial impropriety.

The subpoena is related to a criminal lawsuit filed against Salameh by a group called “The People Want to Reform the System” who accuse the governor of “illegal enrichment,” “money laundering,” and “wasting public funds.”

Lebanese State Security personnel sent to the central bank’s headquarters in Ras Beirut and to Salameh’s house in Rabieh were denied entry by members of the Internal Security Forces.

It was the fourth hearing set by Aoun, who is affiliated to the Free Patriotic Movement, to question Salameh, who did not attend under the pretext that he had previously submitted a request to have Aoun removed from the case.

Salameh’s nearly three decades at the helm of the central bank have come under increased scrutiny since the country’s financial meltdown in 2019.

He is being investigated in Lebanon and several European country’s, including Switzerland, for alleged money laundering and embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars at the BDL — allegations he has repeatedly denied.

In a TV statement, Aoun said she “will keep prosecuting BDL Gov. Riad Salameh until he is brought to justice.”

The group that filed the lawsuit against Salameh accused Maj.-Gen. Imad Othman, director general of the Internal Security Forces, of “violating the law by protecting the governor, and rebelling against the judicial order issued against him.”

It added that “the state security agents are responsible for the execution of the summons. However, Maj-Gen. Othman, his officers and his generals have committed a cold-blooded crime that automatically deprives them of any functional immunity.”

The group, which includes a number of lawyers active in the civil movement, said they decided to “lodge a personal lawsuit against Othman and his agents, who have confronted the security of the state.”

A judicial source told Arab News: “Judge Aoun is the one violating the laws. The public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation, Judge Ghassan Oueidat, had previously removed her from cases related to important financial crimes, referring them to judicial inspection last April. However, no decision has been taken yet because of the difficulty of voting within this body due to political interference.”

The judicial source clarified that “Judge Aoun violates the law by issuing a subpoena against the BDL governor, as he is not a defendant but a witness. How does she give herself the right to issue a subpoena against him? Salameh’s representatives had previously submitted a request to have Aoun removed from the case, but she refused to receive the request.”

According to the source, Aoun cannot issue a subpoena in absentia against Salameh, and can only postpone the hearing.

The act of sending the State Security to places where Salameh might be found caused widespread shock in the Palace of Justice in Beirut.

The internal dispute over the BDL governor is intense between the political party of President Michel Aoun, who is trying to overthrow Salameh, and his backers.

Salameh’s camp is of the view that “Judge Aoun’s move … reflects a political decision to replace the governor with someone affiliated to the president.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, though, wants the veteran central bank chief to remain in his post while Lebanon battles its economic crisis.

Judge Aoun issued a decision to freeze all the governor’s properties and cars on Jan. 18, and imposed a travel ban on him.

The governor has been the target of a political and popular campaign against him since protests broke out in 2019 following the start of Lebanon’s economic collapse, holding him accountable for seizing people’s deposits in banks and lending to the state.

The governor, however, insists that he is working to “protect the social security of the Lebanese people and to secure their minimal needs in spite of the financial situation.”

He has said that “the problem will be solved when the parties concerned assume their responsibilities instead of holding the central bank accountable for the crises.”

Meanwhile, as political tensions rise, Hezbollah challenged the decision of the Ministry of Interior to ban the activity of a prohibited Bahraini group on Monday.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, after consulting Mikati, sent two notices last weekend to the Directorate General of Internal Security Forces and the Directorate General of Public Security to prevent two activities on Feb. 14 and 15, held by “Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society” and the “Coalition of 14 February Youth.”

The notices were sent for “failure to obtain legal authorization” and asked to “take all the necessary investigative measures to collect information about organizers, advocates and invitees.”

Neither security organization carried out the order, however.


Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

Updated 48 min 40 sec ago

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

  • “We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said

OTTAWA: Canada on Monday announced sanctions against Iranian officials over the Islamic republic’s lethal crackdown on protests driven by the death of a young woman after her arrest by the morality police.
“We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference.
“We join our voices, the voices of all Canadians, to the millions of people around the world demanding that the Iranian government listen to their people, end their repression of freedoms and rights and let women and all Iranians live their lives and express themselves peacefully.”


Leading Iran cleric calls on authorities to 'listen to people'

Updated 26 September 2022

Leading Iran cleric calls on authorities to 'listen to people'

  • Protests ignited by a young woman's death in morality police custody show no sign of letting up
  • Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani has long been aligned with ultra-conservative establishment

TEHERAN: A leading Iranian cleric has urged authorities "to listen to the people", as protests ignited by a young woman's death in morality police custody show no sign of letting up.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets of major cities across Iran, including the capital Teheran, for 10 straight nights since the death of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old was pronounced dead on Sept 16, three days after her arrest in the capital for allegedly breaching Iran's dress code for women.

"The leaders must listen to the demands of the people, resolve their problems and show sensitivity to their rights," said Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani in a statement posted on his website on Sunday.

The powerful 97-year-old cleric has long been aligned with the country's ultra-conservative establishment and strongly backed supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on several occasions - notably during the 2009 protests against the reelection of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Any insult to the sanctities and any attack on the rights of the people and public property are condemned," Hamedani added.

At least 41 people have been killed since the protests began on Sept 16, mostly protesters but including security forces, according to an official toll.

The protests have spread to several cities, where demonstrators have shouted slogans against the authorities, according to local media.

More than 1,200 demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations across the country.

On Sept 18, Grand Ayatollah Assadollah Bayat Zanjani, a cleric seen as close to the reformists, denounced what he said were "illegitimate" and "illegal" actions behind the "regrettable incident" of Amini's death.


Germany urges Iran to allow protests after summoning ambassador

Updated 33 min 59 sec ago

Germany urges Iran to allow protests after summoning ambassador

  • “We call on the Iranian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to not deploy further violence — in particular not fatal violence — against protesters,” the ministry said

BERLIN: Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday in order to urge Tehran to stop its violent crackdown on nationwide protests over the death of a woman in police custody, the German foreign ministry said.
“We call on the Iranian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to not deploy further violence — in particular not fatal violence — against protesters,” the ministry said on Twitter. “We also communicated that directly to the Iranian ambassador in Berlin today.”
Asked about the possibility of further sanctions on Tehran in response to the violence, a ministry spokesperson had earlier said, “we will consider all options” with other European Union states.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women. Washington said it held the unit responsible for the Sept. 16 death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini after she was detained by morality police enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict restrictions on women’s dress. 


Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

Updated 26 September 2022

Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

  • Hundreds of demonstrators, activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations
  • The unrest first broke out on September 16 after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in custody of Iran's morality police

TEHRAN: Authorities in a northern Iran province have arrested 450 people during more than 10 days of protests following a young Kurdish woman’s death in morality policy custody, state media reported Monday.
Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations across the country since unrest first broke out after Mahsa Amini’s death was announced on September 16.
Amini, whose Kurdish first name was Jhina, was detained three days before that in Tehran for allegedly breaching rules mandating hijab head coverings and modest dress.
“During the troubles of the past days, 450 rioters have been arrested in Mazandaran,” the northern province’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Karimi, was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.
They “have attacked government buildings and damaged public property in several parts of Mazandaran,” he added.
Local media reported that protesters were shouting anti-regime slogans, and Karimi said they were led by “foreign anti-revolutionary agents.”
On Saturday, authorities in the neighboring Guilan province announced the arrest of 739 people, including 60 women.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, on Sunday “emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency” against the core instigators of the “riots,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said.
At least 41 people have died since the unrest began, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic’s security forces, according to an official toll.
Photos published Monday by the Tasnim news agency showed protesters in Qom, a holy Shiite city about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Security forces have released these images of “lead instigators,” Tasnim reported, asking residents to “identify them and inform the authorities.”


Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

Updated 26 September 2022

Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

  • Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the demonstrations across the country

TEHRAN: Authorities in a northern Iran province have arrested 450 people during more than 10 days of protests following a young Kurdish woman’s death in morality policy custody, state media reported Monday.
Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations across the country since unrest first broke out after Mahsa Amini’s death was announced on September 16.
Amini, whose Kurdish first name was Jhina, was detained three days before that in Tehran for allegedly breaching rules mandating hijab head coverings and modest dress.
“During the troubles of the past days, 450 rioters have been arrested in Mazandaran,” the northern province’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Karimi, was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.
They “have attacked government buildings and damaged public property in several parts of Mazandaran,” he added.
Local media reported that protesters were shouting anti-regime slogans, and Karimi said they were led by “foreign anti-revolutionary agents.”
On Saturday, authorities in the neighboring Guilan province announced the arrest of 739 people, including 60 women.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, on Sunday “emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency” against the core instigators of the “riots,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said.
At least 41 people have died since the unrest began, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic’s security forces, according to an official toll.
Photos published Monday by the Tasnim news agency showed protesters in Qom, a holy Shiite city about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Security forces have released these images of “lead instigators,” Tasnim reported, asking residents to “identify them and inform the authorities.”