Lebanon lawyers call a two-day strike after colleague’s arrest

New controversy comes after weeks of simmering tensions in a deeply politicized judiciary.

1 min read

The Beirut Bar Association called for a two-day strike against what they described as the illegal arrest of lawyer Rami Ollaik by unidentified men in civilian clothes.

Ollaik was recently at the centre of a politicized court case seen as a proxy power struggle between judges who support Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and those who side with President Michel Aoun.

The association said Ollaik was arrested as he was walking to its offices near the Justice Ministry on Thursday. “Unidentified civilians took him violently towards an unknown destination,” they said, calling for a two-day strike on Friday and Monday.

The arrest is illegal because Lebanese law stipulates that the public prosecutor must ask the Beirut Bar Association for authorization before interrogating a lawyer, a source at the association told to a news agency.

The Tripoli Bar Association declared a one-hour strike on Friday morning to reject  “transgression or violation of legal norms”, in an apparent reference to Mr Ollaik’s arrest.

Ollaik is the legal representative of a group of activists called Scream of Depositors, which filed a lawsuit last month against Central Bank governor Riad Salameh, his top aides and one of the country’s most prominent exchange offices, accusing them of money laundering and illicit enrichment.

The High Judicial Council, Lebanon’s top court of 10 judges, advised public prosecutor Ghassan El-Khoury to prosecute Ollaik for slandering the High Judicial Council and state prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat,  news agencies reported on Wednesday. On the same day, Ollaik lambasted Oueidat for arresting Charbel Razzouk, an activist in Aoun’s political party, the Free Patriotic Movement.

Oueidat was appointed by a government decree in late 2019, weeks before Hariri resigned as Prime Minister in the face of nationwide anti-government protests.

However, tensions within the judiciary have been increasing in the past weeks as Lebanon’s economic collapse accelerates. Politicians from all sides blame each other for corruption and for causing the country’s troubles. These divisions are reflected across Lebanese society.

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