In 2017, Lebanese actor Ziad Itani was arrested for allegedly spying for Israel; a crime that he was later exonerated from. But while Itani was released and his accusers charged for falsely incriminating him, his story with injustice is far from over.
On Thursday, October 15th, the actor was set to be questioned by an investigative judge in relation to another complaint filed against him, this time by State Security officials.
The accusation this time is related to defamation.
Reportedly, the defamation complaint comes in response to Itani’s recent critical remarks of State Security, which followed the leakage of the old video of his interrogation to the media in August 2020.
Notably, Itani has told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that, while he was facing the false accusation in 2017, he was forcibly disappeared and tortured by State Security, which prompted him, following his release, to file a torture complaint on November 20th, 2018.
However, as HRW said in a new report published on the topic on Thursday, Lebanon’s criminal justice authorities have yet to take action and investigate the torture allegations.
Furthermore, they haven’t launched a serious investigation into how Ziad Itani’s interrogation videos were leaked, HRW added.
“Instead, judges were quick to summon Itani for interrogation after State Security officials filed a defamation complaint against him.”
HRW proceeded to criticize Lebanon’s “failure to combat torture,” affirming that its criminal justice authorities should investigate his torture claims as well as how the confidential information of his interrogation was leaked to the media.
It also shed light on how the authorities in Lebanon use criminal defamation laws to retaliate against people who criticize them, stressing that they should “ensure freedom of speech is protected and critics are not punished for speaking out.”
As commonly known, freedom of speech in Lebanon is subject to persecutions when people express their disapproval or their dislike of the state, the political officials, or the president in particular.
That is similarly true with the freedom of the press, where reporters and journalists could get arrested, sued, or penalized for alleged defamation, as observed with the recent case of MTV getting banned from the presidential palace.