Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called on the country’s judges to “rise up for their dignity and not to be afraid of the oppression of those in power.”
He also urged the judiciary “to be completely liberated from any persuasion or intimidation,” specifically in the case of the prosecution of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh.
His comments came in a speech addressed to the judicial body on Tuesday.
“On June 9, and based on Article 13 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the competent judiciary initiated a public lawsuit against the defendant, the Governor of Banque du Liban, Riad Toufic Salameh, and his associates… for serious financial crimes,” Aoun said. “These are crimes of embezzlement, forgery, money laundering, illicit enrichment and tax evasion.”
He continued: “Since then, judges have been divided, while those concerned evade responsibility without the prosecution being made in accordance with the legal principles… Therefore, I demand the judiciary to be completely liberated from any inducement or intimidation, which are two offenses unworthy of the judicial authority.”
In a separate development, a Lebanese judge has ordered the release from detention without charge of a man, who last week took hostages at a Beirut bank in an attempt to access his savings frozen after the country’s 2019 financial implosion, the man’s brother and a legal group said, quoted by Reuters.
Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, 42, entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon branch in Beirut’s Hamra district on Thursday and threatened employees with a firearm, agreeing to leave only after the bank pledged to give him USD35,000 out of a total of his more than USD200,000 deposit. He said he needed the funds to pay a relative’s hospital bills.
Hussein was detained following the release of all six hostages but released Tuesday afternoon without any charges being brought against him, his brother Atef told Reuters and legal watchdog group Legal Agenda reported.