23 February 2021 :
The Lebanese Military Court on 22 February 2021 charged 35 protesters from the northern city of Tripoli with terrorism and theft, which carries a maximum penalty of death, attorney Ayman Raad said in a statement.
Raad, who represents the detained demonstrators, said that to his knowledge this is the first time since the 17 October 2019 uprising that protesters have been indicted on terrorism charges.
Protests and sit-ins have already begun emerging throughout the country, in retaliation to the charges, with many outraged by the decision burning tires and blocking roads.
Demonstrations in Tripoli erupted earlier this year as a result of deteriorating living conditions and a crumbling economy in free-fall. Tripoli, home to some of Lebanon’s billionaires, is the country’s poorest city, and circumstances brought about by the pandemic only exacerbated the already deprived city even further.
Seeing no other choice than to take to the streets and protest, demonstrations persisted throughout January and early February, in response to the government’s complete lack of financial and social support for residents who were already living below the poverty line.
Protesters, who attempted to burn down the city's municipality, clashed with security forces and the Lebanese Army, who were recorded by human rights groups to have used excessive force and violence against those demanding their basic rights, resulting in three protesters dead and dozens more injured.
Mass arrests were made, of those the 35 charged on 22 February with terrorism, and who have been in police custody for over a month.
Raad told local media that the arrests were unlawful and arbitrary, and spoke of the charges on 23 February, saying: “This is unacceptable, it is a form of oppression from the Military Court to silence protesters on the ground.”
Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher for Human Rights Watch tweeted earlier on 23 February that “the structure of Lebanon’s military courts undermines the right to a fair trial since many of the judges are military officers, appointed by the Defense Minister, and are not required to have any legal training to work as judges.”
She went on to note that individuals who have stood Lebanese Military Court document “incommunicado detention, interrogations without lawyers, ill-treatment and torture, including of children, and the use of confessions extracted under torture.”