Lebanese military police interrogate student activist

Lebanese military police have interrogated activist Karim Safieddine after he was accused of throwing rocks at soldiers during a student protest last December.

Last December, angry students protested against the country’s top private universities’ decision to raise tuition fees in the middle of an economic crisis, in which the Lebanese pound devalued by more than 85 percent and about half the population was dragged into poverty.

At the American University of Beirut’s entrances, riot police clashed with students, lobbing tear gas at students who threw water bottles and other objects at them.

Safieddine, however, denied the allegations. “I was standing in the back of the crowd with my little sister,” he said. “So it was impossible for me to do such a thing.”

The authorities have not summoned any other protesters.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Prince Bachir military police barracks in Beirut, expressing their support for the activist.

The Mada Network, an alliance of secular and anti-government student and youth activists, said his summoning was a “blatant attack on the right to assemble and organise protests”.

Critics condemned Lebanon’s leadership for targeting activists instead of clamping down on corruption and effectively investigating the Beirut Port explosion in August 2020 that killed more than 200 and wounded at least 6,500 people.

Safieddine said a security official called him last week asking what student groups he is involved with.

Civilians in Lebanon can be tried in military courts, but human rights organisations say these trials often violate international law.

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