Female Political Activist Arrested for her Facebook Posts

Developing story – Beirut, August 11, 2017: Hanady Elias Gerges (27), was summoned to interrogation on Friday August 11 by the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Office of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), to answer questions about Facebook posts in which she criticized the Lebanese President, his son in law and the Prime Minister. She was subsequently arrested on investigation at 12:30pm. Her mother told the media that a judge warrant was issued after normal working hours, and while the judiciary is on strike. When her lawyer questioned the validity of the warrant and tried to get her out on bail, he was not allowed to see her and was told to come back on Monday. In Lebanon, the judiciary does not work on the weekend. The ISF uses the practice of summoning activists on Fridays in order to keep them in custody for the weekend as a way to intimidate them and pressure them to secure confessions.
hanady-gerges.jpgHanady was transferred to the Hbeish Police station and Jail in Hamra, Beirut. This police station runs the “Moral Protection Bureau” and is known for its arrests of LGBTQ persons, and drug dealers an
d is notorious for committing human right violation including torture. After the story broke out in the main stream media, with criticism of her arrest at Hbeish, Hanady was moved to the women’s prison of Barbar Khazen in Minat Al Hosn, Beirut. Conflicting information about her whereabouts are circulating on social media. Since her arrest, she was not allowed to speak to her lawyer or her mother. Such shady techniques are comm
on currency of the ISF which is notorious for not abiding by the rule of law. Freedom of speech and political activists are gathering in front of Hbeish prison in protest. Hashtags in Arabic such as #StatusIsNotACrime, #ArrestedForAPost, #SonInLawIsNotGod and #FreedomForActivistHanadyGerges are trending.
Her Facebook statuses earlier from the day were deleted in addition to her posts in which she criticized the President (Michel Aoun) and his son in law who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Gibran Bassil) as well as the Lebanese Prime Minister (Saad Hariri). It is not
clear if the police seized her phone.

“Lebanon’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression “within the limits established by law.” But the Lebanese penal code criminalizes libel and defamation against public officials and authorizes imprisonment of up to one year in such cases. Article 384 of the penal code authorizes imprisonment of six months to two years for insulting the president, the flag, or the national emblem.
Local and international human rights organizations have long documented Lebanon’s use of libel and defamation laws to penalize lawyers, journalists, and activists for opinions and statements that are protected under international human rights law. In December 2016, Lebanese authorities arrested Bassel al-Amine, a 21-year-old journalism student, for a critical Facebook post. They arrested Ahmad Amhaz on March 21, 2017.
The Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom found in a 2016 report that Lebanese defamation laws were being used for “targeting activists and dissidents and … intimidating online journalists, bloggers and Internet users from speaking about certain subjects, thus paving the way for self-censorship and the chilling of speech.” (HRW http://bit.ly/2o7C6UH) 

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