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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced the party’s support for the presidential candidacy of Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh last night. Hezbollah has “serious commitment” to Frangieh’s candidacy, Nasrallah said, days after Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri also announced his support for the Marada Movement head. However, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has refused to “facilitate” Frangieh’s election, citing the influence Hezbollah would exert over the presidency. Nasrallah added that backing Frangieh is not a “breach of understanding” with Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil. The FPM — mending a recently-shaken alliance with Hezbollah over the convening of cabinet meetings — has not yet responded to Nasrallah’s official endorsement of his political rival, though has formerly opposed Frangieh’s candidacy. The presidential vacuum — in effect since Nov. 1 — has interfered with government meetings and Parliament’s ability to convene legislative sessions. The next voting session to elect a president has not yet been scheduled.
Judge Charbel Abou Samra scheduled hearings with Banque du Liban (BDL) governor Riad Salameh, his brother Raja and his former assistant, Marianne Hoayek, for next Wednesday, a judicial official told AFP yesterday. Abou Samra, shortly after being assigned to an investigation that had been stalled for over a year, charged the trio with “money laundering, embezzlement and illicit enrichment” last month. Salameh is suspected to have embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions from the sale of BDL assets through Forry Associates Ltd., which is owned by his brother, Raja. Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung last month reported the stolen funds had been transferred to a dozen Swiss banks and that the country’s financial regulators had opened an investigation into an unspecified Lebanese bank as part of their own probe into Salameh. The BDL chief is being investigated in at least five European countries, prompting a visit by French, German and Luxembourgian judges, who are expected to continue with Salameh’s questioning. Advancements in the local investigation, however, could interrupt the European judges’ probe if the Lebanese judiciary refuses to cooperate.
Activists called for a United Nations intervention into the stalled Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut port blast probe during a sit-in at the Beirut Justice Palace yesterday. “Justice in Lebanon is not only violated by the political and security authorities, but also by judges, including Ghassan Oueidat,” said Nawal Meouchi on behalf of the Noun collective, which called for the protest. In January, Oueidat, Lebanon’s top prosecutor, suspended an attempt to relaunch the port blast probe by lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar and released the detainees arrested in the explosion’s immediate aftermath. The protesters said they “are looking abroad,” pleading for an intervention from Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council for a solution to the stalled probe to counter “obstacles” created by the political class. Relatives of the blast victims held their 31st monthly vigil last Saturday, commemorating the tragedy that claimed more than 220 lives and injured more than 6,500 people.
Caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad, announcing an update to the ministry’s medicine tracking amid reports of shortages and smuggling, scheduled the launch of a hotline to flag overpriced medication. Abiad said that 80 additional subsidized medications will be added to the 50 already included in the ministry’s MediTrack platform — which both prioritizes registered citizens to receive medication and attempts to curb smuggling. “Citizens will be able to call 1214 and complain to the ministry and we will take the necessary measures against non-conforming pharmacies,” said Abiad. Medicine shortages amid a fourth year of economic crisis have jeopardized people with chronic diseases and cancer patients’ continued access to their treatments. The hotline is scheduled to launch next Monday.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read article from yesterday: “‘On Friday we buried him’”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz