BEIRUT: A protester who was arrested at a demonstration and allegedly beaten up security forces was released Thursday after being detained for more than 15 hours.
“They dragged me and then took me to the Defense Ministry,” Khaldoun Jaber said in televised remarks after being released from the Ras Beirut police station. Jaber had been arrested at a demonstration at Baabda Palace the previous night.
After his release, Jaber took off his shirt to reveal bruises covering his back. He alleges they were sustained when he was detained by Army Intelligence dressed as civilians at the protest.
Jaber said he was beaten, taken to the Defense Ministry and then to a military hospital.
He was eventually transferred to the Ras Beirut police station, where he was released.
Eyewitness accounts also alleged that Jaber was beaten by plainclothes Army Intelligence personnel after he was leading protest chants at the demonstration. The chants were reportedly insulting to President Michel Aoun.
Jaber has not been charged, but lawyers and protesters suspected he was taken in because of the nature of the chants.
While Lebanon’s Constitution protects freedom of expression, Article 384 of Penal Code authorizes imprisonment of six months to two years for insulting the president, national emblem or the flag.
“I think this law is problematic,” Ghida Frangieh, a lawyer following Jaber’s case, told The Daily Star. “In a democracy, you need to be able to criticize the president.”
Jaber was greeted by dozens of friends and family outside the station. They had held demonstrations near Baabda Palace and outside the Justice Palace demanding his release since his detention the night before. They told local media that they would return to participate in the protests.
When asked whether he would be pressing charges, Jaber said he would wait to see what a forensic doctor had to say.
Protesters had gathered Tuesday near the presidential palace to reject comments Aoun made during a televised speech, calling for protesters to go home.
Brief scuffles broke out between security forces and demonstrators as they tried to remove the metal barriers and barbed wire.
“Aoun told us to all go home. It’s not permitted in 2019 for a president to say this to his people, who are protesting against corruption and fighting for their human rights,” said Majid Ramadan, 24, a friend of Jaber’s who had protested for his release in front of Beirut’s Justice Palace the night before,
The uprising that started on Oct. 17 has called for the resignation of the government and the formation of a technocratic Cabinet, in addition to early parliamentary elections and an early end to Aoun’s now 3-year-old presidential term.