“Teach us about the law,” sarcastically requested MP-lawyer Hadi Hobeich, addressing the Public Prosecutor of Mount Lebanon Judge Ghada Aoun in her office in the Baabda Justice Palace.
Accompanied by a group of lawyers and supporters, the MP of the Akkar district in North Lebanon angrily stormed into the palace on Wednesday, December 11th, and confronted Judge Aoun over her recent decision to detain Hoda Salloum, the Director-General of the Traffic and Vehicles Management Authority in Lebanon.
Earlier that day, Judge Ghada Aoun had called Hoda Salloum in to be questioned, following a report by attorney Wadih Akel regarding Salloum’s alleged involvement in several crimes, including bribery and illicit enrichment.
Upon interrogating her, Judge Aoun acted upon her conviction of Salloum’s involvement in the crimes. She had her arrested and held in the Justice Palace. The case was then transferred to the examining magistrate of Beirut, George Rizk.
Rizk rejected the case before requesting that it be sent to him in accordance with the legal mechanism, i.e. through the Public Prosecution of Beirut.
Consequently, MP Hadi Hobeich, who happens to be Hoda Salloum’s cousin, rushed into the Justice Palace with a group of people, demanding that the Judge be interrogated and disciplined for detaining the Director-General of the “Nefaah.” He claimed that her action broke the law.
A lawyer himself, Hobeich took it upon himself to storm into the office of the Public Prosecutor of Mount Lebanon and confront her in an aggressive tone, calling her a “militia, not a judge,” and accusing her of being a “symbol of corruption.”
The MP based his accusations on the fact that, for a Public Prosecutor to arrest an employee, permission must be requested beforehand.
Furthermore, he accused Judge Aoun of creating this vacancy in the Director-General of the Traffic and Vehicles Management Authority position for political motives; assigning a pro-FPM (Free Patriotic Movement) employee as Hoda Salloum’s replacement.
However, according to the law, which is referred to in procedures for prosecuting employees in the public sector, permission to pursue and arrest must be taken from the employee’s administrative reference, except in case of suspicion of unlawful enrichment. That is in order to facilitate procedures and to override the permissions and immunities given to employees.
This was confirmed to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar by a judicial reference. The newspaper reported that the Supreme Judicial Council also held an exceptional meeting yesterday evening to announce its full support for the judges.
The Supreme Judicial Council denounced accordingly the “horror of one of the nation’s deputies in the Baabda Justice Palace, throwing accusations and insults on Judge Aoun in her office.”
Moreover, as reported by Al-Akhbar, the council asked the Attorney General to prosecute Hobeich and called on the parliament and the two bar associations of lawyers to take the appropriate position regarding what happened.
Some analyses and sources alleged that MP Hobeich’s aggressive reaction to Salloum’s arrest is an indicator that he has also been involved in the crimes for which she is being detained.
Hobeich had previously been accused of corruption multiple times for different reasons, including his alleged involvement in cutting down 4500 trees to connect a road to his residence, as well as illegal parking meter deals.
In an unrelated incident, during its emergency meeting last night, the Supreme Judicial Council referred Judge Ghada Aoun to the Judicial Inspection Authority, in the backdrop of a media statement she had made without prior permission in accordance with the established procedures.
On Thursday, December 12, Judge Aoun took the role of personal prosecution against MP Hobeich in light of his actions in her office. She attached the video taken inside the office, which documents the incident, as evidence for her case.
Later on, attorney Wadih Akel submitted a new report to the Public Prosecution to arrest the MP along with whoever the investigation deems involved in the crime of “assaulting the office of Judge Aoun.”
Similarly, the head of the bar association in the Northern Governorate met with the head of the Supreme Judicial Council after the latter’s request to take the necessary legal measures to pursue Hadi Hobeich. The bar association will be holding an emergency meeting today to discuss the case.
In turn, later today, Hadi Hobeich told LBCI that he pressed charges against Judge Aoun for “intense treatment, libel, defamation, and insulting lawyers and deputies.”