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MORNING BRIEF

Berri sets legislative session, teacher arrested, bank depositors protest in Sin al-Fil: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, June 16:

Berri sets legislative session, teacher arrested, bank depositors protest in Sin al-Fil: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

A "wanted poster" for Banque du Liban chief Riad Salameh in Beirut. (Credit: João Sousa/L'Orient Today/File photo)

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Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri yesterday scheduled a legislative session for Monday after the joint parliamentary committees approved credit lines for public sector salaries and the delayed 2023 budget. The agenda for Monday’s session has not yet been fixed, Berri’s office told L’Orient Today. MPs citing the ongoing presidential vacuum have repeatedly announced their refusal to participate in legislative sessions and boycotted meetings. Parliament, nonetheless, passed a law extending municipalities’ mandates months before their expiry, amid difficulties in financing elections to name their replacements. Legislators’ 12th attempt on Wednesday to fill the presidential vacuum, the first since January, failed following a loss of quorum after a single round of voting.

Dozens of teachers protested outside the Beirut Justice Palace, where union activist Nisrine Chahine was held for the alleged defamation of caretaker Education Minister Abbas Halabi, her lawyer Rafic Ghraizi told L'Orient Today. Ghraizi said Chahine was arrested yesterday after refusing to remove a Facebook post accusing Halabi and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati of the clientelistic hiring of teachers. Last November, the State Council suspended the removal of Chahine after backlash from teachers who were unconvinced with the ministry’s claims that her services were no longer needed.

Demonstrators vandalized the storefronts of Banque Byblos, Bank Audi and Bank of Beirut branches in Sin al-Fil during a protest organized by the “Depositors’ Cry” collective. The protest decrying illegal banking restrictions imposed since 2019 moved from downtown Beirut towards Sin al-Fil, where the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, Salim Sfeir, lives. In February, the same group claimed to be behind a spree of vandalism targeting banks in Tripoli and the Beirut neighborhood of Badaro. Commercial banks have maintained heightened security measures since last September after repeated holdups by depositors, sometimes armed, demanding access to their blocked funds.

Caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib called for “greater support from donor countries” to host Syrian refugees in Lebanon, whose presence, he claimed, exacerbated the country’s crises and incurred “invisible costs.” From the same Syria aid-pledging conference in Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced a pledge of 560 million euros to help countries neighboring Syria cope with the costs of hosting Syrian refugees. Bou Habib’s call follows months of ramped-up restrictions targeting Syrian refugees in Lebanon, aggressive policing of their communities and a rise in deportations. Returnees face the danger of arrest, mandatory military conscription and forced disappearance upon arrival in Syria.

Authorities postponed a hearing in the probe into suspected Banque du Liban (BDL) corruption scheduled for yesterday with the BDL chief’s brother, Raja Salameh. Salameh did not attend the hearing due to medical reasons, a senior judicial source told L'Orient Today. The judge assigned to the BDL probe, Charbel Abou Samra, requested a forensic doctor’s report to set a next hearing. Raja Salameh previously cited health reasons for skipping his questioning in Paris and hearings with foreign magistrates visiting Beirut. Riad and Raja Salameh face a slew of corruption charges alleging they conspired to defraud the central bank by rerouting hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions from the sale of BDL assets.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: Where are the safest spots for swimming in Lebanon this summer?

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri yesterday scheduled a legislative session for Monday after the joint parliamentary committees approved credit lines for public sector salaries and the delayed 2023 budget. The agenda for Monday’s session has not yet been fixed, Berri’s office told L’Orient Today. MPs citing the ongoing presidential...