Lebanese Actor Released after Arrest for ‘Collaborating’ with Israel

Lebanese Actor Released after Arrest for ‘Collaborating’ with Israel

Tuesday, 13 March, 2018 - 18:30
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri receives actor and writer Ziad Itani after his release from custody. (NNA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
for allegedly “collaborating” with Israel.

Itani flashed a "V" sign for victory as he left prison and broke down in tears as he said he had been "subjected to the greatest injustice" in Lebanon's history.

Meeting Itani after his release on Tuesday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the security apparatus had received "wrong information".

He responded affirmatively when he was asked if he had been tortured into confessing.

"I am a theater person, people! Why should I be accused of the worst crime ever?" he said.

Later, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq visited Itani at his home in Beirut.

Itani has shot to prominence in recent years because of a series of comedy plays on Beirut, its customs and the transformations it has undergone in recent decades.

A military judge ordered Itani's release, a judicial source said, after he was arrested in November and accused of "collaborating and communicating" with Israel.

The judge also issued an arrest warrant for a high-ranking female officer accused of framing him, the source said.

The former head of a security unit fighting cybercrime, Suzan al-Hajj, was detained for questioning earlier this month over suspicions she had enlisted the help of a hacker to fabricate conversations between the actor and an Israeli woman.

Lebanon, which technically remains at war with its southern neighbor, upholds a boycott of Israeli products and of contact with its nationals.

In November, the State Security Directorate General said Itani was being questioned "on charges of collaborating and communicating with the Israeli enemy".

The actor in his 40s was detained "after several months of monitoring, follow-up and investigations within and outside", it said.

Itani had allegedly confessed to having been "tasked to monitor a group of high-level political figures" and their associates.

But people close to the actor said his "confession" was extracted under duress, though the authorities have denied the accusation.

A source close to the investigation earlier this month said Hajj was suspected of having framed Itani to seek revenge after Itani shed light on her liking a controversial post on Twitter last year, after which she was demoted.

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