BEIRUT — The United Arab Emirates has released nine Lebanese detainees who were arrested for their alleged links with Hezbollah, a diplomatic source at the Lebanese Foreign Ministry confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour on Friday.
A tenth detainee, a Lebanese businessman from Sour, South Lebanon, died in Emirati detention earlier this month. At the time, a Lebanese diplomatic source told L'Orient Today he died due to torture, but L'Orient Today was unable to confirm this claim.
Contacted by L'Orient Today, spokesman for the relatives of the detainees in the UAE Aboul-Fadl Chouman said a first group of detainees was released last week and that a second was released this week. The most recent detainee was released on Thursday, he added.
The nine detainees were originally arrested in Dubai in late March. An additional six Lebanese citizens, including four sentenced to life imprisonment and two to 15 years imprisonment, are still being held in the Emirates, according to Chouman.
Chouman said the men were accused of "laundering money for Hezbollah and Iran, as well as having made contact with the Shia party."
Bustros Palace, the headquarters of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, was unable to confirm the reason for their detention.
"We have not been notified of the charges," said the Foreign Ministry source, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.
"It's unfair to detain people for weeks only to find out, in the end, that they were innocent," added Chouman, who explained the detainees are still in the Emirates, awaiting "deportation" to Lebanon.
Dozens of Lebanese, mostly Shias, have recently been arrested — and occasionally convicted — in the UAE for alleged links to Hezbollah.
These arrests took place against a backdrop of regional tensions and an ongoing tug-of-war between the Sunni Gulf monarchies and Shia Iran, despite the diplomatic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran that began in March.
L'Orient-Le Jour tried unsuccessfully to contact the Emirati Embassy in Lebanon to confirm this information.
Diplomatic relations between Lebanon and the UAE were reduced in 2021 following the seizure of 5.3 million tablets of the amphetamine captagon concealed in a cargo of grenades aboard refrigerated trucks from Lebanon.
Gen. Abbas Ibrahim to travel to UAE?
On May 15, a demonstration was organized in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut to call on the Lebanese government to intervene in the release of the nine prisoners and denounce the death of the tenth detainee.
Rights organization Amnesty International also reacted, calling for an independent and impartial inquiry into the matter.
According to the families' spokesman, Lebanese authorities may soon send the former director of General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, to the Emirates, to try and secure the release of the six remaining Lebanese prisoners.
General Ibrahim previously intervened on behalf of Lebanese detainees in the UAE when he was still in office, notably in 2021 during a high-profile operation to repatriate a dozen detainees.
When questioned by L'Orient-Le Jour, Bustros Palace was unable to confirm the mediation of the former General Security chief in this most recent release of the nine detainees. Ibrahim was not immediately available for comment.