BEIRUT — The first investigating judge of Beirut, Charbel Abou Samra, ordered the Wednesday release of four men detained for their involvement in a series of bank holdups throughout Lebanon.
Two of the men were detained for helping depositor Sali Hafez hold up a Beirut bank last Wednesday and another two were detained for holding up other banks on Friday, according to a judicial source and Ali Abbas, the detainees’ lawyer. All the holdups were staged to retrieve the depositors' own funds.
A judicial source confirmed to L'Orient Today that Abed Soubra, the man behind the holdup of a Blom Bank branch in the Tariq al-Jdideh neighborhood of Beirut, was released on a LL5 million bail and a six-month travel ban. Jawad Slim, who held up a Lebanese and Gulf Bank in Ramlet al-Bayda, was also released on a LL15 million bail and a six-month travel ban.
Earlier, Abou Samra questioned two of Sali Hafez' accomplices, Abdel Rahman Zakaria and Mohammad Rustom, in a court hearing Wednesday, at the end of which he ordered their release, according to the state-run National News Agency (NNA). The men had assisted Hafez in reclaiming her funds from a Blom Bank branch in Beirut's Sodeco neighborhood.
The judge’s order was in opposition to the decision of the Public Prosecution at the Court of Cassation, who had decided to prosecute them, Abbas was seen saying on local TV, adding that the release was on the condition of an LL5,000,000 bail each, as well as a six-month travel ban.
On Tuesday, a first decision to release Zakaria had been issued, but concerning another case related to a shooting in Akkar and not the Blom Bank case. Abbas said he and his client would need to attend the military court to sort the warrant against Zakaria in this shooting.
A number of activists and the families and friends of the detainees protested in front of the Justice Palace in Beirut on Wednesday demanding the detainees’ release, NNA and local media reported.
However, the protesters did not disperse after the decision to release Zakaria and Rustom, following the referral of Zakaria to the military court as a result of an arrest warrant reportedly issued against him in absentia.
A group of activists attempted to break into the Justice Palace, but security forces stood in their way. According to the NNA, a verbal dispute took place between the activists and Blom Bank’s representative Sakher Hashem when the latter entered the courthouse.
The judge also scheduled a court hearing on Sept. 28 to notify Sali Hafez of the file against her in the bank case.
Security forces established a “strict plan to impose law and order … to protect depositors,” caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said on Friday, following the week’s several bank holdups. He did not give any specific details on the plan. The banks are also in the third day of a planned three-day closure that started Monday.
Four people in custody
Four depositors who held up banks last Wednesday and Friday remain in custody: Rami Charafeddine, who withdrew $30,000 of his own funds during his incursion into a BankMed branch in Aley last Wednesday; Mohammad Korkomaz and his son, who were arrested after withdrawing $19,200 from a Byblos Bank in Ghazieh, South Lebanon; and Lieutenant Karim Serhal, who is responsible for the Friday holdup at a Bank Med Chehim branch in the Chouf, during which he obtained $25,000 out of his $200,000 deposit. Serhal was later arrested by the Lebanese Army.
Mohammad al-Moussawi, who managed to obtain $20,000 from his account during a holdup at the Lebanese-French Bank (BLF) in Beirut's Kafaat suburb last Friday, was not arrested. In response to a question on whether Moussawi's non-arrest has to do with the fact that the holdup took place in Beirut's southern suburb, a Hezbollah stronghold, an ISF source told L'Orient-Le Jour that a search warrant was issued for him.
Moussawi's lawyer, Ashraf Moussawi, told L'Orient-Le Jour that no security service has summoned his client yet, but that the latter would appear if summoned. However, the lawyer said he wonders how his client could appear in court "while the judiciary is on strike," adding that, if an arrest took place, "[the process] might get prolonged."
BEIRUT — The first investigating judge of Beirut, Charbel Abou Samra, ordered the Wednesday release of four men detained for their involvement in a series of bank holdups throughout Lebanon.Two of the men were detained for helping depositor Sali Hafez hold up a Beirut bank last Wednesday and another two were detained for holding up other banks on Friday, according to a judicial source and...