After holding a sit-in for several hours inside a branch of the Lebanese Bank for Commerce (BLC Bank) in Antelias, Metn, to withdraw part of his illegally blocked money, the unarmed doctor Pascal Rassi left the premises empty-handed but with a verbal commitment from the bank manager.
The bank manager promised to examine his case and respond "within a few days" to his request for $20,000 dollars of his savings in order to undergo medical treatment.
Contacted by L'Orient-Le Jour, a spokesman for the Cry of the Depositor's association said that Dr. Rassi, whose living and health conditions have deteriorated, was asking for $20,000 dollars of his $100,000 blocked savings after negotiations with his agency failed.
"Rassi has to undergo treatment and is barely able to get around, as his car has broken down," the spokesman said. "While I was on the phone with Rassi, who was in the bank, the branch manager realized that the depositor was unarmed, and physically assaulted him while trying to get him out."
This version of events was later contested by Rassi.
Contacted by L'Orient-Le Jour, Rassi said he believes the manager "wanted to restore calm in the agency after I handcuffed myself in protest."
"When I entered and handcuffed myself, customers and employees were panicked. Internal Security Forces were deployed to the scene and the bank was evacuated, even though I claimed that my act was peaceful. The manager raised his voice to restore calm," Rassi said. He added that he made an initial, unsuccessful visit to the bank last Wednesday.
"I sold my practice two years ago, due to the economic crisis, and deposited my money in the bank hoping to take advantage of the interest rate that was supposed to allow me to obtain, after two years, an amount equivalent to about $20,000" Rassi explained.
However, the interest was waived because of illegally imposed banking restrictions.
"I gave up trying to get this amount today, but I am claiming this $20,000 in a non-negotiable way," he said. The doctor also indicated that he will present medical evidence to the bank manager, who verbally committed to processing his case within a few days.
Bank holdups and sit-ins by customers demanding their own funds have become frequent in Lebanon amidst full financial and economic wreckage.
Last Wednesday, an unarmed depositor held up a branch of Crédit Libanais in Chehim, in the Chouf, by pouring gasoline on the premises. He was able to obtain $42,500 in cash, as well as an unspecified amount in Lebanese lira.
In early October, another man carried out an action at a BLC branch in Chtaura, Bekaa, but was unable to recover any of his funds.