Lebanon News

Second day of protests over Bassil slur

Amal supporters carry pictures of Speaker Nabih Berri as they protest in Nabatieh, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT/NABATIEH, Lebanon: Protests and demonstrations erupted for a second day in both Beirut and some areas of south Lebanon as a result of a leaked recoding showing Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil calling Speaker Nabih Berri a “thug” in a recent electoral meeting. Although protests were not on the same scale as those Monday, Berri’s supporters took to the streets of the capital in the evening with no obvious end in sight to the tension.

The leaked video was not well received by officials and members of the Amal Movement, headed by Berri, and has soured relations between the speaker and Bassil.

In response to the video protesters Monday burned tires, blocked roads and tore down banners of Bassil and President Michel Aoun, who founded the FPM, now headed by Bassil.

Riding mopeds and carrying Amal Movement flags, the protesters caused congestion in the capital’s Central District. Protesters also cut-off the Kfar Shima main road, causing traffic until security forces removed the obstacles.

The Daily Star toured the capital Tuesday evening but no protesters remained on the streets and the situation appeared to have calmed.

A security source told The Daily Star that the security forces with assistance from members of Amal’s leadership prevented a number of men from blocking the main intersection near Mar Mikhael Church in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

The security forces seized the tires and fuel from the men and asked them to disperse, the source added.

Protests Tuesday weren’t just confined to the capital, with areas in south Lebanon also seeing their share of unrest on the ground.

The residents of Nabatieh held a sit-in that brought together supporters of Berri and representatives of Amal Movement’s Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc.

Holding the Lebanese and Amal Movement’s flags along with banners of Berri, they chanted “Don’t worry Berri, we are your people.”

They also burned an FPM flag along with a photo of Bassil.

“Bassil knows that he can’t target Berri, who is a public figure that has protected Muslim-Lebanese coexistence,” the deputy head of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers, Hasan Fakih, said at the sit-in. “Bassil is the one dividing Lebanese from each other,” Fakih further added.

Despite the general calm in the southern city of Sidon, senior figures in the Amal Movement prevented a number of men from engaging in a fight with the Lebanese Army at a checkpoint near the entrance to the town of Ain al-Delb, according to the state-run National News Agency. Media reports said that the men, who were from Haret Saida, were prevented by the Army from entering the town to prevent any confrontation with FPM members present there.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 31, 2018, on page 2.

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