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Lebanese Protesters Denounce Security Forces' Use of Violence

Lebanese Protesters Denounce Security Forces' Use of Violence

Thursday, 16 January, 2020 - 13:15
Demonstrators sit together during a protest over deteriorating economic situation, in the city of Jounieh, north of Beirut, Lebanon October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Imad Creidi
Asharq Al-Awsat

As politicians fail to form a new government and an unprecedented economic crisis keeps on deepening, protesters took to the streets of Lebanon in a new wave of demonstrations that saw the use of violence by security forces.

Dozens of people rallied outside the Interior Ministry on Thursday to denounce the use of violence during rallies, including attacks against journalists and the detention of dozens of people.

Many said they were protesting what they described "the systematic use of force against members of the media", they also raised photos of journalists getting beaten by riot police.

Meanwhile, others gathered outside the American University of Beirut and a police station where dozens have been detained since Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

“It has been over 90 days since the beginning of the protests and to this day the authorities have completely failed to address the demands of the protests,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East director.

“In the past two days, we have seen an escalation on both sides."

Protests turned violent Tuesday when demonstrators targeted security forces with stones and water bottles and smashed windows of commercial banks, which they accuse of corruption and denying them their deposits.

However, security forces have used “excessive” tear gas in densely populated districts and detained over 100 people, including five minors according to lawyers, in an unprecedented wave of arrests, Maalouf noted.

They have beaten and verbally abused some protesters and attacked journalists, trying to prevent them from filming, she said.

According to AP, authorities began releasing detainees late Wednesday and Thursday.

Bachir Abu Zeid was one of over 50 protesters detained late Wednesday outside the police station. He was pulled inside as he tried to help others who fell to the ground and was kept in a small cell with 30 people overnight and was only allowed to call his family nearly six hours after he was taken in.

“We are expecting this. It is becoming more violent from them and us. They are not listening to people,” Abu Zeid said after his release.

“This repression will only make us stronger and give us momentum.”

For her part, Interim Interior Minister Raya El Hassan rejected attacks on the press “rejected” and promised an investigation.

She said security forces are ”tired" and “scared for themselves” after 90 days of protests, however, she noted that this doesn't justify the attacks.

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