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Judges resign, Pope promises to help Lebanon, lira hits LL25,000: Everything you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Nov. 26, and over the weekend

Judges resign, Pope promises to help Lebanon, lira hits LL25,000: Everything you need to know today

Pope Francis greets Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati (Credit: Vatican Media)

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Three judges, all women, have resigned in protest of political interference in the judiciary, a judicial source told L’Orient Today. However, their resignations have not been accepted yet by the head of the country’s top court, AFP reported. This action comes in light of numerous attempts by those implicated in the Beirut blast toto impede the ongoing investigation into the Beirut port blast by having investigating Judge Tarek Bitar removed from his role. Yesterday, the General Assembly of the Court of Cassation tossed out two more such attempts, rejecting lawsuits submitted by former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and former MP Nohad Machnouk in connection with the port probe, while the Criminal Court of Cassation rejected a lawsuit filed by former Minister Youssef Fenianos. Meanwhile, in a protest outside of the Justice Palace in Beirut, family members of blast victims demonstrated yesterday against attempts to obstruct the ongoing investigation of the Beirut port blast.

After meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati yesterday, Pope Francis said he would pray for the country, referencing the Gospel of Jairus in which Jesus raises a 12-year-old girl from the dead. Mikati presented the Pope with a tile from a nineteenth century church in Beirut that was damaged by the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast. The NNA reported that Pope Francis “affirmed all necessary efforts will be made to help Lebanon restore peace and stability.” Earlier this year, the Pope had said he would visit Lebanon, but only after political leaders came to an agreement on forming a government. The government, formed in September, is now deadlocked, and there has been no further indication of if or when the Pope might visit.

Tourism minister Walid Nassar issued a circular Thursday asking travel agencies not to market Belarus as a tourist destination. This follows a previous circular last week banning anyone without a Belarusian residency permit from flying out of Beirut to the Eastern Europe country. The EU has accused the Lukashenko-led government of weaponizing refugees as a bargaining chip in reaction to sanctions imposed on him after the 2019 Belarusian protests. Those who land in Belarus and attempt to cross into Poland have often been ping-ponged back and forth for weeks in the forested area between the two countries by Belarusian and Polish security forces, with temperatures now dropping below freezing. So far the known death toll stands at around a dozen.

Amid worsening economic conditions and no end in sight to the political paralysis, the price of one dollar on the parallel market reached LL25,000, crossing a symbolic threshold. The same time last year it was floating around LL8,000-8,500. Along with political factors, the depreciation is likely linked to a recent decision by Banque du Liban forcing importers to source 10 percent of the dollars needed for fuel imports from the parallel market. The lira’s continuing plummet coincides with the economy ministry raising the price of a “family sized” bundle of bread to LL10,000. Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights lambasted government officials for their lack of action.

Deputy Prime Minister Saade Chami told reporters after meeting President Michel Aoun on Thursday that technical discussions between the government and the IMF are “almost complete.” He sounded a somewhat hopeful note, saying that a preliminary deal could be reached by the year's end for a plan to be finalized in January 2022. The contours of any potential agreement revolve around budget, exchange rate, monetary policy and banking sector issues. Any IMF deal needs to be approved by the cabinet, which has not met in a month and a half. Amid conflicting reports by Prime Minister Mikati and Governor Riad Salameh regarding whether the government and banking sector have agreed on the size of the financial sector losses, Chami assured reporters that figures will be unified.  


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Three judges, all women, have resigned in protest of political interference in the judiciary, a judicial source told L’Orient Today. However, their resignations have not been accepted yet by the head of the country’s top court, AFP reported. This action comes in light of numerous attempts by those implicated in the Beirut blast...