At the beginning of March, the Beirut Bar Association made the decision to prohibit lawyers from speaking to the media without prior approval from Bar President Nadder Gaspard.
Later in mid-April, the Bar Association Council summoned Legal Agenda executive director Nizar Saghieh for a hearing because he criticized the bar’s decision.
More recently, the bar lifted the immunity of two of its member lawyers: Wadih Ak, close to the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), and Hassan Bazzi, director of the advocacy group known as “The People Want to Reform the System.”
Both lawyers are known for their activism and have pursued corruption cases for several years with the view of holding perpetrators accountable.
‘Ready to appear’
Two weeks ago, the Bar Council convened under the chairmanship of Gaspard and made the decision to lift the immunity privilege of Wadih Akl.
The decision comes after caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati filed a complaint against Akl before the Cassation Prosecutor’s Office for “defamation and incitement to sectarian strife.”
Gaspard told L’Orient-Le Jour, “The council sanctioned the initiation of proceedings because it deemed Akl’s remarks in direct conflict with the [ethical] conduct expected in his profession.”
“The law stipulates that in cases involving acts unrelated to the practice of the legal profession, the order's council must lift immunity,” he explained. Gaspard did not disclose the specific details of the disputed act attributed to Akl.
Contacted by L’Orient-Le Jour, Akl did not further elaborate on the matter. He said he had not yet been notified of the date of the hearing and was “ready” to appear before court.
“I, however, reserve the right to take action against any person that defames me,” Akl said, in reference to Mikati’s remarks.
The bar council last Friday gave Court of Cassation Prosecutor General Ghassan Oueidate the green light to initiate proceedings against Bazzi for alleged "defamation" against the chairman of the Shebaa municipal council. Notably, the latter faces corruption charges.
Judge Oueidate had received the complaint and requested the Bar Council to authorize him to start the proceedings for “defamatory remarks.”
“The council deemed Bazzi’s acts in conflict with the conduct of the profession since there is already a legal dispute between him and the president of the Shebaa Municipal Council,” Gaspard told L’Orient-Le Jour.
“Even if the act in question is related to professional matters, the council retains the authority to revoke the lawyer's immunity if the allegations involve insults or defamation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bazzi believes that Oueidat cannot take any measures against him. The lawyer claims to have already filed a lawsuit against the judge to the plenary assembly of the Court of Cassation on charges of “serious misconduct.” This would automatically prevent Oueidat from pursuing any legal actions against him.
To this, Gaspard emphasized that the Bar Council should refrain from intervening in matters concerning a judge’s competence.
“We are delivering our response to the requesting authority regarding the waiver of immunity without questioning its jurisdiction to adjudicate on the specific complaint,” Gaspard said.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Sahar Ghoussoub.
At the beginning of March, the Beirut Bar Association made the decision to prohibit lawyers from speaking to the media without prior approval from Bar President Nadder Gaspard.Later in mid-April, the Bar Association Council summoned Legal Agenda executive director Nizar Saghieh for a hearing because he criticized the bar’s decision.More recently, the bar lifted the immunity of two of its...