BEIRUT — A few dozen protesters demonstrated Sunday in front of a Blom Bank branch in Halba in North Lebanon against the arrest of two activists who came to the aid of the depositor Sali Hafez when he held up a branch of the same bank in Sodeco, Beirut, on Wednesday, in order to recover her own money, L'Orient Today's correspondent in North Lebanon reported.
According to his information, the demonstrators gathered in front of the homes of activists Abdel Rahman Zakaria and Mohammad Rustom and then moved towards the branch of Blom Bank in Halba. Holding up portraits of the detainees, they chanted slogans against what they called "the injustice of the banks" and the restrictions imposed on depositors' money. The protesters threatened to escalate their actions and block roads in Akkar and the north if the two activists are not released.
On Wednesday, Hafez, armed with a toy gun, held up the Blom Bank in Sodeco to demand her own money, saying she needed the funds to assist her sister who has cancer and is dying in hospital. She also doused herself with gasoline and threatened to set herself on fire. The young woman was supported by activists and relatives at the scene. After obtaining about $13,000 of the $20,000 deposited by her family in the bank, and less than an hour after the holdup began, Hafez and her accomplices managed to escape through a window before the security forces arrived. However, two activists were arrested by the police.
Two days later, on Friday, five bank holdups took place across the country by depositors wanting to recover their own funds amid Lebanon's financial collapse.
The same day, various Lebanese security services drew up a "strict plan to impose law and order in the country to protect depositors and citizens," according to caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi. However, no details of the plan have been released.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced a three-day strike starting Monday following the incidents.
Additional reporting by Michel Hallak