In a preparatory meeting headed by Head of Beirut Bar Association Melhem Khalaf at the Beirut Bar Association on Saturday, 560 attorneys agreed on visiting prisoners on Sunday, Dec. 22 to check with them and fact-check with the stories behind their imprisonment.
Khalaf proposed this on-point initiative in the meeting, as these hundreds of attorneys expressed their desire to participate in this visit. Lawyers will divide themselves into groups according to the number of prisoners and detainees in each of these prisons. They are planning on covering all prisons in different territories in Lebanon.
Khalaf's proposal was agreed upon by the Minister of Interior and Municipalities in the current caretaker government, along with Beirut First Investigating Judge Ghassan Oueidat.
Khalaf said to Annahar newspaper: "Prisons in Lebanon are overcrowded. This overcrowdedness is met with different things; there are detainees in these prisons that do not have lawyers/attorneys to represent them due to lack of financial capabilities or their inability to contact the outer world outside prisons so lawyers can take over and follow up with their files."
He also revealed the following: "There are also people who have served their sentences and should be released but were not able to because they are unable to pay the fines stipulated in the ruling issued against them."
He went on explaining, "In the same context, there are people who have served their sentences but are unaware of the procedures they should undergo so they can be released. In addition to all of this, there are foreigners in prison; these people may need to contact their families to let them know of their whereabouts. Each person who is not Lebanese yet is in Lebanese prisons should be taken care of."
The Head of the Beirut Bar Association insisted that all cases found in prisons are going to have equal priority to all lawyers and that the reality of prisons in Lebanon will be taken into consideration.
Moreover, Khalaf believes that these lawyers and attorneys will be able to meet up and interview all detainees and prisoners and will be able to finish their mission in one day according to the program proposed.
After the visits, lawyers will be making a national announcement that a lawyer will be assigned to every detainee who does not have a lawyer so he/she can follow up with the detainees' cases before the courts.
It is said that there are 7000 detainees and prisoners in prisons all over Lebanon; 40% of them are foreigners, whereas only 35% are actually convicted according to an official resource. 3900 prisoners are living in Roumieh Prison alone.