Lebanese union leader detained over Maronite patriarch ‘erection joke’
In a leaked video uploaded to YouTube, Asmar can be seen sitting at panel in front of a poster saying “Executive Committee of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers”.
The bald man union leader is heard joking with fellow panelists that Sfeir had become a saint following his death, saying “I pray to him every night so maybe he’d be able to grow my hair and let me get it up properly” before pointing to his groin.
Asmar, who is a Maronite Christian, continued, “it’s because he’s a saint, with the status of sainthood” before one of the panelists warns “watch out, maybe the microphones are on”.
Asmar and the men on the panel were preparing for a news conference.
Unfortunately for Asmar the microphones were in fact on, and the video has cost him his freedom and position as the head of Lebanon’s trade union confederation. He was forced to resign on Monday.
The late Patriarch Sfeir led the Lebanese Maronite Church from 1986, when Lebanon was going through a sectarian civil war, until his resignation in 2011.
He was a revered figure both in the Lebanese Maronite community and the country as a whole, and an outspoken opponent of the Syrian presence in Lebanon before Syrian troops withdrew in 2005.
Asmar publicly apologised for what he said and praised Cardinal Sfeir, but this was not enough to stop him being condemned by the Lebanese Minister of Labour Camille Abu Suleiman, the Maronite League, the Maronite Foundation in the World, and the mainly Sunni Future Movement.
He has been under arrest, without charge, since Saturday, and the Arabic hashtag #Yes_to_putting_Bechara_Asmar_on_trial has been trending on Twitter.
Father Abdo Abu Kasem of the Catholic Media Centre, slammed Asmar for his “decadence”, saying “when someone talks disdainfully about a great man like Patriarch Sfeir, then he doesn’t deserve to remain in his position”.
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