Deputy Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation Imad Kabalan on Monday summoned the Public Prosecutor at the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal Ghada Aoun to appear before his court, following a complaint lodged by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati
Former MP Ali Darwish, a close associate of Mikati, confirmed to L’Orient-Le Jour that the caretaker prime minister had indeed filed a complaint against Aoun.
He explained that the complaint relates to defamation, following Aoun’s publication in November 2022 of a document listing individuals, including Mikati, alleged to have had accounts frozen in Switzerland by the United States.
Pascale Fahd, the lawyer representing Judge Aoun, confirmed that the prosecutor’s office contacted her by phone on Monday morning to inform her that Judge Kabalan wants her to appear before him on Thursday.
However, the notification was not official. Aoun plans to appear before the clerk of the public prosecutor’s office to be notified, according to Fahd.
Fahd emphasized that Judge Aoun has not yet been informed of the complaint’s content and will decide whether or not to appear before Judge Kabalan once she has reviewed it.
In a tweet posted in November, Aoun published a list of names of individuals purported to have had bank accounts in Switzerland frozen, asking how true the information was. She also urged the people mentioned to reveal their accounts for the sake of transparency.
She later deleted the tweet as the document had been deemed fake almost four years earlier in May 2019 when it was mistakenly attributed to WikiLeaks.
Judge Aoun is also facing judicial appeals from Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and the widow of former MP and minister Elias Skaff, Myriam Skaff, who were both named in the aforementioned false list.
Last November, Lebanon’s top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat took charge of examining the complaints filed against Aoun by Berri and Skaff’s widow based on accusations of defamation, abuse of power, incitement to confessional dissension and discord between the components of the nation.
But Aoun contends that Oueidat is not competent to handle the case because of an ongoing dispute between the two judges before the Council of State related to the top public prosecutor’s decision to forbid her from dealing with cases related to financial crime.
Speculation abounds that Kabalan was appointed to decide on the appeal presented by Mikati precisely because of this enmity between Aoun and Oueidat.
According to Article 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, an offense imputed to the public prosecutor at the Court of Appeal (in this case, Ghada Aoun) can be prosecuted ex officio by the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Court of Cassation or based on a complaint from the injured party (in this case, Mikati).
The prosecutor’s office must then transmit the case to the plenary assembly of the Court of Cassation. However, this assembly at the Court of Cassation has not had a quorum since January 2022 due to members retiring and new appointments not being made because of political obstacles. Legally 10 members of the plenary assembly would be required to examine the caretaker prime minister’s complaint.
Therefore, it is unlikely that this case will be resolved in the near future.
This article was originally published in French by L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Sahar Ghoussoub.