Lebanese official accused of framing actor as Israeli agent

Senior Lebanese officer investigated for fabricating evidence against Lebanese actor who was charged with collaborating with Israel.

Elad Benari ,

Lebanese-Israeli border
Lebanese-Israeli border
Reuters

The Information Branch of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces is investigating the role of a senior officer in fabricating evidence against Lebanese actor Ziad Itani, who was arrested last year on charges of "collaborating" with Israel.

According to the Annahar news website, Major Susan Hajj Hobeiche, the former head of the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau, is suspected of hiring a hacker to frame Itani whom she blames for her ouster from her previous post.

Itani had reportedly taken a screenshot of Hobeiche’s like of a Twitter post by Lebanese film director Charbel Khalil ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s royal decree allowing women to drive. The social media incident led to Hobeiche’s removal from her post, though she had claimed to have accidentally liked the filmmaker’s tweet, believing that it held a positive connotation regarding women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

State prosecutor judge Samir Hammoud confirmed on Saturday to Annahar that Hobeiche was being investigated among other suspects for her alleged role in Itani’s case.

Hobeiche reportedly hired a hacker who “created fake accounts” to make it look like Itani was communicating with an Israeli agent. The hacker is reportedly an informant registered with State Security, the agency that detained and questioned Itani who was charged with collaborating with Israel in November 2017.

Itani is expected to be released soon after Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouk took to Twitter Friday to announce his innocence, the report said.

Mashnouk said Lebanon should apologize to Itani, describing him as an “honorable” man who “has never abandoned his Arab and Beiruti identity for a single day.”

Reports of arrests in Lebanon of suspected collaborators or spies for Israel are nothing out of the ordinary.

In October, the Hezbollah-affiliated television network Al-Manar reported that Lebanese security forces had arrested three Lebanese men suspected of collaborating with Israel.

According to the report, the three admitted that they had been in contact with Israeli officers and agents.

In January, Lebanon’s security services claimed they had arrested a spy ring comprised of five people who allegedly “spied for Israeli embassies abroad”.

In 2015, Lebanese authorities announced they had arrested two Lebanese nationals and a Syrian on allegations of spying for Israel.

Several weeks later, Lebanese media reported that soldiers had detonated a "listening device" allegedly planted by Israel in the southern Marjayoun region, close to the border with the Jewish state.



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