A video that is making rounds on social media shows the president of the Beirut Bar Association (BBA), Melhem Khalaf, shouting furiously at Internal Security Forces officers for illegally arresting and assaulting a fellow lawyer, Ephrem Al-Halabi.
Khalaf was understandably enraged at the lawyer being handcuffed and treated like a dangerous criminal. As seen in the video, several officers were all over him as he was nailed to the floor.
“Handcuffs are for criminals, delinquents who break the law,” Khalaf yelled at security officers. “Go see to those who are making mischief, those who are shooting! You’re imposing your authority on lawyers?!”
Apparently, the lawyer was stopped, beaten, and handcuffed after allegedly violating the lockdown’s odd/even license plate driving restriction.
The961 reached out to Khalaf’s team who provided details about the incident.
Based on the decision of the Higher Defence Council, lawyers are exempt from the lockdown odd/even license plate driving restrictions that would hinder their important and vital work in serving their clients.
However, according to Khalaf’s team, this exception was erroneously excluded from the circular issued by the Interior Ministry.
Hence, despite being in line with the decisions of the Higher Defence Council, lawyers have been among the many civilians receiving fines from authorities.
Regardless, lawyers were told to continue working as usual and that the Bar Association would handle the fines.
Illegal Arrest& Assault
On Wednesday at noon, Lebanese lawyer Ephrem Al-Halabi was passing by a checkpoint in the Corniche al-Mazraa area when he got stopped for breaking the odd/even license plate restriction.
He informed the officer that he was a lawyer but the officer clearly didn’t care. One thing led to another and instead of simply writing a fine, the officer wanted to impound the car.
The two clashed verbally – until ISF used physical force to unjustly arrest al-Halabi.
As seen in the video, the lawyer was bullied, forcefully pulled out of the car, beaten, pinned to the ground by several officers, stepped on, handcuffed, and unlawfully taken into custody – without any justification and against legal procedures.
The colleague, who was with Al-Halabi at the time of the incident, immediately informed Khalaf, who arrived within minutes at the station accompanied by the Commissioner of the Justice Palace, Nader Kasbar, and the BBA’s Secretary-General, Saadeddin Al-Khatib.
Khalaf succeeded to quickly release the illegally detained and assaulted lawyer on the spot. However, that was not without the authorities’ attempts to stop him, blocking his car from leaving the police station. They finally got into Al-Khatib’s car and left the area.
A forensic doctor was hired to examine Al-Halabi’s condition and the lawyers are now taking legal action against the illegal assault and abuse of power.
The video captured Khalaf in a moment of justified rage at the brazenness of the police to arrest and beat a lawyer at a time when real criminals are not being touched.
Just a night earlier, while reporting a fire incident, two journalists were assaulted and badly injured by over a dozen supporters of Hezbollah and Amal.
The journalists were transported to the hospital with serious injuries. As of the time of writing, there has been no report whatsoever that the attackers were arrested. Videos from the incident didn’t show any act of arrest or handcuffing.
The recorded scene of the lawyer’s arrest has created quite an outrage among the public. One must say that watching the aggressive way in which an innocent unarmed civilian got arrested as if he was a highly dangerous criminal is not short of shocking.
As for Melhem Khalaf, he once again has proven to be a rock to count on during these shaking times the citizens of Lebanon live.