BEIRUT — Depositor Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, who on Thursday was arrested after he held employees and customers hostage in Federal Bank’s Hamra branch in an attempt to obtain access to his deposits, was let go Tuesday, his attorney Rami Ollaik confirmed to L’Orient Today.
Federal Bank on Tuesday dropped its charges against Hussein, an order signed by Public Prosecutor Ghassan Ouiedat and seen by L'Orient Today confirmed.
Ollaik also added that Hussein’s brother had received $35,000 of Hussein’s $210,000 bank deposit, as part of an agreement, before an hourslong bank standoff ended with Hussein leaving the bank in the custody of security forces. He had been in state custody since.
According to the Depositors’ Union, Hussein's father is in the hospital and needs $50,000 for treatment, while Hussein had $210,000 in savings stuck in the bank that he is unable to access.
Hussein’s relatives and supporters, including depositors’ groups, gathered Tuesday in front of the Beirut Justice Palace, where a hearing was taking place in Hussein’s case. Protesters blocked traffic at Sami al-Solh Avenue, causing traffic jams in the area before the road was reopened. They called for the hostage taker to be “released immediately.”
The depositor’s brother, who was present at the protest, told local media that Hussein has been on a hunger strike, adding that his condition is “acceptable” and that Hussein “has no regrets.”
Banners held by protesters read, “The mission of the judiciary is now to annihilate the people to serve the interests of influential people” and “The judicial system is only worth the small amount of LL1,500,” in reference to the official exchange rate which remains fixed at LL1,500, while the national currency is exchanged at more than LL32,000 against the greenback on the parallel market.
Commercial banks in Lebanon have imposed informal capital controls on account holders’ deposits since the onset of the country’s economic collapse in 2019, severely restricting depositors’ access to their savings. In many cases, this has left depositors struggling to pay health care, education and other bills.