Freedoms

Ali El-Amine and the Times of Intimidation and Censorship

The religious scholar is accused of “stirring sectarian hatred” and “inciting inter-sectarian discord”... because he does not think like Hezbollah.

Ali El-Amine and the Times of Intimidation and Censorship

The religious scholar Ali el-Amine in a conference. ANI File Photo

Under the shock of learning that charges were brought against the religious scholar Ali el-Amine, Patriarch Bechara el-Rahi alarmedly denounced, in the middle of a rosary recitation on Tuesday evening, “an unfortunate drift of Lebanon towards a police state,” a source close to el-Rahi told L’OLJ. One may essentially add: it was known that Hezbollah was attacking this Shiite dignitary who does not share its totalitarian ideology and the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (Wilayat al-Fakih) doctrine; it was also known that the man was evicted from his home in Tyre and that he has been living in Hazmieh. But what we did not known that single thought would lead those close to the party to file an information note with the judiciary in which they would accuse a man of great moderation who prays in Sunnite mosques of “inciting discord,” simply because he does not think like them.

A correction was published on Wednesday by the National News Agency (NNA), in which it apologized for having mixed up the accusations made in the information note sent to a magistrate by lawyer Ghassan Mawla, with the charge. The note said the Shiite dignitary was guilty of “meeting with Israeli officials in Bahrain, persistent criticism of the resistance movement and our martyrs, interfaith incitement, machinations for the purpose of discord and violations of the religious rules of the Ja’afari jurisprudence.” Ultimately, the only charge brought against el-Amine was “stirring up sectarian strife and inciting discord between communities.”

If the charge of “meeting with Israeli officials” was not retained, it was because it would have been the responsibility of the military court, and that in any event, that same charge was dismissed in December 2009, on the Shiite dignitary’s return from an interfaith conference he attended in Bahrain. The chief rabbi of Jerusalem was also present, a fact that el-Amine knew only after his attendance. On a practical level, Hassan el-Amine told OLJ on Wednesday that his father has not yet been legally notified of the new charges upheld by the prosecutor general, which he only learned of through the media.

“Sliding towards a Police State”

The fact remains that the legal action brought against el-Amine has aroused the indignation of political circles and activists. “Hezbollah is implementing a policy of intimidation and censorship of speech, with lies and slander,” Ibrahim Chamseddine, a former minister, told L’OLJ, confirming the Maronite patriarch’s diagnosis of the country “sliding towards a police state.”

Chamseddine also criticized the complacency towards Hezbollah by the leaders of the Future Movement, who today clear themselves vis-à-vis the Shiite dignitary by condemning the prosecutions against him, but who had gave up on el-Amine when the Shiite Higher Council, under pressure from the Amal-Hezbollah duo, stripped him of his privilege to issue religious decrees (fatwas), even though such a decision was to be taken by the council of ministers. For Chamseddine, the charges against el-Amine are null and void, they must be withdrawn immediately and the magistrate who retained them should be held responsible by his superiors.

The move was also denounced by Samir Geagea, who said that it was “inadmissible that civil liberties in Lebanon be treated as such” and called on the Supreme Judicial Council to put an end to the matter. “It is unacceptable to use the judiciary,” the head of the Lebanese Forces (LF) said.

For his part, Walid Jumblatt denounced “the conspiracy to falsify history by the forces of darkness and exclusion” and “the abolition of Lebanon as a country of diversity and freedoms by totalitarian forces.” The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) also regretted that the judiciary “or what is left of it” was being manipulated.

The DNA of Freedom

The outrage is no less among the activists, who do not fear for democracy but consider that it is being threatened by both arbitrary prosecutions and heavy-handed arrests. One of them, who requested anonymity, recalled that the attorney general at the court of cassation, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, had just announced that offenses against the head of state will no longer be tolerated.

“A police state in Lebanon is doomed to fail,” he said, “we are not a monolithic society. The Lebanese carry in their genes the DNA of freedom. And no one will be able to take it away from them.” “You fear for Ali el-Amine,” he said. “But we fear for the Shiite religious scholar Yasser Awdeh. Listen on YouTube to what he’s saying in the middle of Bir el-Abed!”

“(Security) agencies are back,” said Pierre Issa of the National Bloc Party (NLP). “This government is a government of security agencies. But no one has overused accusations of collusion with the enemy as much as some of its members. Look at what was done to Ramzi Irani (an engineer and LF executive, assassinated in May 2002), Toufic Hindi (political advisor to the LF leader detained in 2001 for 15 months for collusion with Israel), and now Ali el-Amine,” he added. “Is it a coincidence that the young woman who is currently being prosecuted for collusion with the enemy is hostile to Hezbollah?” he asked, referring to the activist Kinda el-Khatib who is in custody in connection with her prosecution by the military prosecutor’s office on accusations of collaboration with Israel. “But real agents, such as Fayez Karam (a former official of the Free Patriotic Movement and close aide to General Michel Aoun who was sentenced in 2011 to only two years in prison for collaborating with Israel), and Amer Fakhoury (a former high-ranking member of the pro-Israel militia South Lebanon Army) are being freed.”

Issa denounced the collusion between the police and the judiciary, which is characteristic of all police regimes. “At the moment, public opinion is more polarized around the fight against precariousness than the fight for freedoms, and this risks the reemergence of the dividing lines between March 14 and March 8 (coalitions),” the NLP official said. “This state wants to solve the social and economic problems through the police. We need time to understand what this regime is doing. Perhaps we are going back to the days when Emile Lahoud was President. But take a good look at the countries that Hezbollah is presenting us as models: Syria, Iran, Venezuela. These are countries that resemble it...”


(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 25th of June)



Under the shock of learning that charges were brought against the religious scholar Ali el-Amine, Patriarch Bechara el-Rahi alarmedly denounced, in the middle of a rosary recitation on Tuesday evening, “an unfortunate drift of Lebanon towards a police state,” a source close to el-Rahi told L’OLJ. One may essentially add: it was known that Hezbollah was attacking this Shiite dignitary who...

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