Lebanon minister calls Uber unsafe after Briton's murder
Nohad Machnouk said the driver had a criminal record, without elaborating, but said that should have been an alarm for anyone seeking to hire him.
Machnouk urged Lebanon's residents to use "traditional" taxis, saying Uber is a "virtual" entity that has no physical representation.
"I urge all Lebanese not to use this means [of transport] because we don't consider it safe," he said. "Dealing with Uber is risky and it is better we return to traditional ways."
Machnouk was speaking at a public dinner organised by the Beirut municipality, where Uber is popular among the expatriate community as well as internet-connected young Lebanese, and provided a competitive edge to the traditional taxis in the congested city.
Lebanon's Al-Nahar newspaper said in a report on Wednesday that the 29-year-old driver was sentenced to six months in prison 10 years ago for stealing a motorcycle.
Uber drivers in Lebanon must be licensed taxi drivers. The company says it enrols drivers with no criminal record but it is not clear if it runs its own security checks.
Also, according to Lebanese law, one's criminal record can be cleared after a certain amount of years. One legal expert told Lebanese newspaper Daily Star that crimes less severe than murder can be erased after three years.
The US-based Uber said it was "horrified" by the killing of Rebecca Dykes, whose body was found Saturday on the side of a road, strangled and showing signs of sexual assault. Uber said it was assisting in the investigation.
Also on Wednesday, a Lebanese court ordered news websites to remove pictures of Dykes' body, saying circulating them constitutes a violation of the sanctity of the dead. Websites would be fined over $3,000 for every hour they delay removing the pictures.
Bad news for Uber
Machnouk's comments come on a particularly bad day for the San Francisco-based company. The European Union's top court dealt Uber a blow, ruling on Wednesday that the ride-hailing company should be regulated like a taxi company and not a technology service.
The ruling is likely to result in stricter regulations on the company. The ride-hailing company has had a particularly bad year, in which it has faced a slew of legal cases in Europe, Britain and the United States over licensing and security checks of its registered drivers.