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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Lebanese detained in the UAE released after inmate’s death

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Lebanese citizens detained in the United Arab Emirates since March have been freed, Lebanon’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement Saturday — weeks after a fellow national died in custody.

Lebanon’s ambassador to Abu Dhabi informed his ministry “of the release of all 10 Lebanese detainees arrested in the UAE about two months ago”, the statement said.

The group of 10 were detained in March and accused of having links to Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah, which Abu Dhabi classifies as a “terrorist” organisation, said Afif Shoman, a spokesman for the relatives of Lebanese detained in the UAE.

“They have been freed but remain in the UAE,” he said.

One of the detainees, Ghazi Ezzedine, died in custody on May 4, prompting a backlash from rights groups including Amnesty International.

The nine remaining detainees “were released after backlash and a media campaign following the death of Ezzedine”, Shoman said, adding that his body had not yet been returned to his family.

UAE authorities have offered no comment on the matter and its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ezzedine, aged in his 50s, had been living in the Gulf state for some three decades until his arrest on unknown charges on March 22, along with his two brothers, Amnesty’s Sima Watling said at the time.

Following his death, authorities waited days to notify his family, only doing so to ask his son to identify the body and then allowing only Ezzedine’s face to be seen, Watling said.

“It appears that the UAE authorities are trying to hide the real cause of the death and shrouding the case with secrecy,” she added.

In recent years, the UAE has expelled or sentenced to jail a number of Lebanese Shiites over alleged ties to Hezbollah.

In May 2019, an Emirati court sentenced a Lebanese man to life imprisonment and two compatriots to 10 years in prison on charges of planning attacks for Hezbollah.

Five other Lebanese Shiite Muslims were acquitted of the charge of planning to carry out attacks for the group.

Amnesty said at the time that “the absence of basic requirements of a fair trial, such as having access to a lawyer” stripped that verdict “of any reliability or credibility”.

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