For the second time, military prosecutor Peter Germanos refuses to file charges against an army officer for “homosexual activity” despite being asked to do so by former Defense Minister Elias Abou Saab.
A senior official reported to the Daily Star on the evening of January 28th that, while acting as a caretaker defense minister, Bou Saab had “explicitly asked” Germanos to file a case of homosexuality against Lebanese Army Sgt. J.R. under Article 534 of the penal code.
Germanos decided to go against Bou Saab’s written instructions and close the case, based on that the soldier’s relationship was consensual.
He asserted that he would file charges against any non-consensual sexual activity “regardless of whether it was homosexual or heterosexual.”
The Army had opened an investigation into the soldier when he was discovered to be contacting four other soldiers on the dating app Grindr, which was banned in Lebanon by the Telecommunications Ministry in May of last year.
However, many people have been able to access the app and bypass the ban through the use of a VPN.
Former MP Bou Saab’s interference in that judicial case holds no such legal authority. However, it’s a stance that has been normalized in Lebanon by politicians interfering in judicial issues and pressuring for their desired outcome.
Countering the allegation though, Bou Saab denied having spoken to Military Prosecutor Germanos to file charges against the army officer. He said that he had simply forwarded a request from army head General Joseph Aoun “in line with military procedures.”
Bou Saab went on adding that he supports gay rights and civil marriage and that he had in fact pushed to reform the “outdated law.”
From his side, Judge Germanos said that the incident highlights the need to finally abolish Article 534, which holds with it a judgment of one-year imprisonment, because of its inability to specifically define what is “sexual activity against nature.”
That penal article had been put in place by the French Mandate system and many LGBT activists over the years have called for its abolition.
Since 2007, Lebanese judges in civilian courts have been refusing charging homosexuals under this law dating from the past century. In 2018, a court in Mount Lebanon ruled that homosexuality is not a crime.
Germanos had previously made a landmark ruling not to prosecute 4 military personnel for homosexual activity in April of last year.