As if the Lebanese haven’t been praising and admiring enough the man for his many achievements since his election as the first independent Head of Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf just melted their hearts with a wholesome stance in support of a fellow, 86-year-old attorney.
Attorney Malek Oueidat was seated at the back of the Criminal Court Hall in Beirut, awaiting his session while another was taking place.
During that ongoing session, Oueidat’s driver entered the hall and asked him if he had taken his medications. The elderly attorney, having developed hearing loss due to old age, replied to the driver in a high voice that was heard by the attendants of the hall.
Upon hearing the loud voice, the head of the court, Judge Sami Sedqui, asked those present whose voice it was; one attorney answered, informing the judge that it was Oueidat’s.
Judge Sedqui then asked the veteran attorney to leave the courtroom and speak outside of it; he complied. If the elderly felt mortified, he said nothing, yet his fellow lawyers in the courtroom did feel as such for him.
A while later, the Head of Beirut Bar Association Melhem Khalaf arrived at the scene after receiving calls from various lawyers regarding the shameful incident.
The viral video of Khalaf consoling Oueidat while fixing the latter’s gown took Lebanon by storm.
Accompanied by the Commissioner of the Justice Palace, Nader Kasbar, and the Secretary-General, Saadeddin Al-Khatib, and Malek Oueidat himself, Khalaf entered the criminal courtroom.
He took the initiative to approach the president of the court, saying: “I do not like to obstruct the court’s progress, but our elders should not leave the courtroom.”
He continued: “A colleague of ours who wears a law robe does not leave a courtroom, [especially] at the age of Mr. Oweidat and, we’re sorry to say, we will boycott all of your sessions.” Melhem Khalaf then asked his fellow attorneys to leave the hall at once.
After news of his esteemed stance towards his fellow elderly attorney reached Lebanese social media users, the Head of Beirut Bar Association claimed a spot on Twitter’s top trending list in the country, with many Lebanese users weighing in on the matter, cheering Khalaf and applauding his heroic response.
Moreover, many people demanded that he be handed the Ministry of Justice in the upcoming cabinet; some even went further and said they wanted him to be the next president of Lebanon.
While this incident attracted a lot of attention, it is not Melhem Khalaf’s first show of commitment and sincerity to his position since his election.
He personally visited and checked on Lebanese prisons and unduly-detained inmates, prompted to visit detained protesters with a team of lawyers to check they are legally supported, and took action against the illegal measures of banks.
More recently, he has been vocal in condemning the excessive use of violence by security forces dealing with protesters.
He has indeed proven to be a man of duty and responsibility; an attorney and advocate for the rights of all the oppressed in Lebanon.