BEIRUT — Dozens of people demonstrated outside the Grand Serail in downtown Beirut on Monday morning to demand the release of Lebanese nationals detained in the United Arab Emirates.
The protest follows the May 4 death of Ghazi Ezzeddine, one of the Lebanese detainees in the UAE.
Ezzeddine allegedly died under torture during an interrogation, two months after his arrest, the reasons for that remain unclear. The Tyre native was a father of three children.
Demonstrators waved Lebanese flags and pictures of their imprisoned relatives, demanding that the government intervene to release the ten remaining detainees.
Several Lebanese residents in the UAE, mostly Shia Muslims, have been convicted in recent years for alleged links to Hezbollah, which the UAE government and several Gulf monarchies consider a terrorist organization.
'We came to defend the rights of the Lebanese'
"We came to defend the rights of the Lebanese outside the country," said one demonstrator, who requested anonymity. "The detainees we are communicating with have tried to get a lawyer, but have not succeeded."
"Why have they been arrested? They have not committed any crime!" the demonstrator continued. "We are told that it is for security reasons, but nothing more."
Lebanese diplomatic sources told L'Orient-Le Jour that "[the Ministry of] Foreign Affairs is investigating" the death of Ezzeddine.
Ezzeddine, 50, was arrested on March 22 along with his two brothers, according to Amnesty International. Amnesty also confirmed that 10 Lebanese Shia were arrested in March alone, and are being held without charges.
Lebanese citizens living in Gulf countries have, at times, found themselves at the center of the tug-of-war between Sunni monarchies in that region and Shia Iran.
In May 2019, Amnesty reported that the Emirates had issued prison sentences against three Lebanese accused of allegedly forming a "terrorist cell" and "planning attacks" on the orders of pro-Iranian Hezbollah.
In February 2021, a dozen Lebanese detained in the Emirates were released after mediation.