BEIRUT — The Prosecutor General at the Court of Appeals of Mount Lebanon, Judge Ghada Aoun, on Tuesday ordered the release of lawyer and activist Rami Olleik and depositor Ibrahim Baydoun, both of whom are in custody at the Baabda courthouse.
Olleik and Baydoun were arrested, along with two others, after they broke into a branch of the Crédit Libanais bank in Hazmieh last Wednesday to forcibly withdraw the illegally blocked deposits of Baydoun and another depositor, Ali Sahili.
The group, at least one member of which was armed, occupied the bank until late in the evening.
Speaking during a press conference at his home in Achrafieh on Tuesday evening, Olleik warned that his collective Mouttahidoun will escalate actions, threatening to "burn down banks" if the depositors are not immediately released.
Olleik also commended Judge Aoun for ordering their release, without consequences or on conditions such as settling a fine.
The judge also referred depositors Ali Sahili and Catherine al-Ali, also in custody at Baabda Palace of Justice, to the first investigating judge of Mount Lebanon, Nicolas Mansour, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Earlier on Tuesday, Olleik, founder of the collective Mouttahidoun (Arabic for "United"), was transferred to the emergency room of al-Hayat hospital, in Hadat due to deteriorating health resulting from the hunger strike he has been observing for the past six days, according to a statement from Mouttahidoun.
"Ali Sahili continues his fourth day of hunger strike, while Catherine al-Ali has started her second day without food for justice and freedom," the statement reads. "Even though our bodies are weak, our pulse is strong and we will continue the revolution against the banks ... We have every right to defend our money and we will not back down. We have been humiliated enough," the text continues.
Speaking with difficulty, Olleik announced in his press conference that he broke his water strike but will continue his hunger strike until the release of depositors Ali Sahili and Catherine al-Ali.
Following last Wednesday's operation, Ollaik had said that the depositors had managed to get $55,924 out of a total of $195,000 from their accounts.
Since 2019, as Lebanon plunged into an unprecedented economic crisis, banks have imposed drastic and illegal restrictions on depositors, limiting withdrawals and transfers. Since then, the phenomenon of robberies led by individuals has multiplied, with varying degrees of success, forcing banks to temporarily close their doors on several occasions before reopening with enhanced security measures, staggered entry of customers and significantly reduced hours.
The Lebanese Army announced on Tuesday that it carried out military exercises in Jounieh, in the north of Lebanon, simulating a bank robbery.
A video posted by the army on Twitter showed the drills taking place in a branch of Fransabank. This operation "is done within the framework of special operations against terrorism in coordination with British and American training teams," the tweet said.
Olleik regretted on Tuesday evening the army's military exercises carried today, saying that depositors have the right to have access to their savings.