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Ahead of today’s expected cabinet meeting, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Saade Chami reiterated his call for Banque du Liban (BDL) chief Riad Salameh’s “immediate resignation” amid mounting international legal pressure. According to the state-run National News Agency, cabinet is scheduled to discuss the financing of state dues (requests for treasury advances for public employees’ salaries and pensions, passport printing etc.), public employee appointments, bilateral and international agreements and others. The meeting’s 72-item agenda does not mention Salameh, whose continued stewardship of the BDL was already the subject of an inconclusive consultative cabinet meeting Monday. Any “authority figure who is accused of crimes should step down,” Chami said, calling for Salameh’s resignation, as have other top officials since an Interpol red notice for the BDL chief was issued on May 16 after he skipped a hearing in Paris. On Wednesday, after a hearing in Beirut, the Lebanese judiciary reinstated Salameh’s travel ban. On Tuesday, a Paris court announced that it would issue a verdict on July 4 for a restitution request for hundreds of millions of euros worth of assets linked to Salameh that were seized due to suspicions that they were acquired through allegedly embezzled BDL funds. Considering the presidential vacuum, the caretaker cabinet’s capacity to pick Salameh’s successor has caused controversy. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea rejected Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s call for the government to appoint a new BDL governor.
The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) announced it would hold elections on June 25 to replace longtime leader Walid Joumblatt, whose resignation was finalized in the same party statement yesterday, PSP MP Bilal Abdallah told L’Orient Today. Abdallah said Joumblatt’s resignation, which is due to “personal reasons,” follows his push for “reforms within the party, bringing in new faces, reinforcing the role of women and focusing on the youth.” Joumblatt’s decision, though announced “years ago,” has been repeatedly stalled by events in the country, including “the COVID-19 pandemic, and the financial collapse,” Abdallah added. Joumblatt became the party’s leader in 1977, succeeding his father and PSP founder, Kamal, who was assassinated the same year.
Human rights defenders said they were shocked and alarmed yesterday after Internal Security Forces (ISF) members on Wednesday arrested Egyptian human rights activist Abdelrahman Tarek, known by the nickname Moka. Tarek’s sister, Sarah, said that he was released the same day after his arrest “with no warrant by 3 men in plainclothes who broke into his house & took him by private car to the intelligence branch of internal security in Beirut,” UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor said in a tweet. Tarek has been living “in exile in Lebanon,” as described by Lawlor, since 2022 after he faced seven years of arbitrary imprisonment and torture in Egypt, according to news site Daraj. Contacted by L'Orient Today, the ISF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Johns Hopkins University economics professor Steve Hanke ranked Lebanon the fourth most "miserable" country in the world, a figure that should be taken “with a grain of salt,” according to Lebanese economist and research manager at The Policy Initiative Sami Zoughaib. Hanke’s 2022 annual misery index, which relies on unemployment rates, inflation and other economic data, placed Lebanon fourth most miserable behind Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Syria.”You need to think differently about the economy in Lebanon than you’re used to typically thinking about economies,” Zoughaib noted, citing gaps in data and the index’s inability to capture the country’s dive into the informal economy. This year, Lebanon has also been ranked as the second least happy country in the world and the angriest country in the world.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “The fine art of slow violence”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
P.S.: AUB Outdoors, an annual event that raises funds for scholarships held at the American University of Beirut is returning from a four-year hiatus this weekend featuring “diverse cuisines, exciting games, concerts and entertainment.”
Don’t miss L’Orient Today’s stand, where you’ll be able to meet the team, ask (and be asked!) questions and get a chance to win prizes.