This revolution continues to take world news by storm, for all the right and the wrong reasons. Amidst this tense time, Lebanese politicians all over the world are subject to rumors as well as false reporting. That was the case in what concerns the incident in Sydney, Australia, with Dr. Pierre Raffoul, former Minister of State to the Lebanese Presidency, which we previously reported based on several local news outlets. We are writing this today to rectify it.
According to local news, including Aliwaa’s online news portal, Dr. Pierre Raffoul was reportedly arrested in Sydney for his alleged attempt to run over four Lebanese protesters at a peaceful demonstration in support of the Lebanese back home. Raffoul then, as per Aliwaa, attempted to flee the scene from a “back exit.”
According to the news website New Lebanon, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil has also reportedly been attempting to resolve the issue through calls to the Australian government but has not succeeded.
However, according to the Lebanese protesters at the scene, including The961 correspondent in Sydney covering the protests, that is not what happened nor is the current status of Dr. Raffoul with the Australian authorities.
In fact, and as conveyed to us by our Sydney correspondent who is also part of the protest, Raffoul was meant to hold a public forum at Our Lady of Lebanon church after a 6 PM mass.
Due to the current politically tense nature of Lebanon’s protests, members from the community requested to move the forum to a different location in order to maintain the church’s neutrality from politically sensitive matters. In describing the incident, The961’s correspondent explained:
“Raffoul was meant to hold a public forum at Our Lady of Lebanon church after 6 pm mass. Because of the current situation in Lebanon, members from the community requested to move the forum to a different location in order to keep the church out of political matters. We were aware that supporters of the revolution called for a peaceful protest since Mr. Raffoul is part of the current Lebanese government.”
“As a result, the forum was canceled and a mass was celebrated at 7 pm. Mr. Raffoul and the Tayyar’s actions angered many as the doors of the parish were closed at the beginning of the mass; an unusual display in our church.”
“At the end of the Mass, a group of parishioners stood in the church’s outer courtyard, carried Lebanese flags, and recited the Lebanese National Anthem. Prior to Mr. Raffoul’s departure, and as a number of Tayyar members were walking down the stairs of the Church, Tony Taouk, President of the Tayyar in Australia, addressed the group out loud by telling them, “We have enough criminals on the streets in Lebanon, as if we need more here”. They replied, “We are not criminals, we are Lebanese citizens expressing our opinion.”
This led to an argument and an altercation. Tony Taouk got in his car and started driving towards the crowd and ran over a parishioner who was taken to hospital. Many others were injured. The police closed the street and ensured the safety of all those present. Tony Taouk was questioned by the police over the incident. Both Dr. Raffoul and Tony Taouk were questioned because of their involvement; however, no charges or arrests have been made.”
Raffoul currently serves as Advisor to the President of the Republic on Political Affairs and is also “General Coordinator” of the Free Patriotic Movement, according to his resume on Lebanon’s National News Agency.
His office in Sydney has since issued a statement that his actions were in reaction to anti-government and anti-Aoun slurs Raffoul encountered and that he did not in any way harm any protesters.