Lebanon release US journalist after rights groups demands
Lebanese authorities released Wednesday a freelance American journalist who was detained in Beirut last month, hours after two international human rights groups called her detention arbitrary and demanded that she be set free, her lawyer said.
Nada Homsi, a freelance journalist currently working with National Public Radio (NPR), was arrested by General Security on November 16 following a raid on her apartment that took place without a judicial order, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement.
General Security, the country's top security body, denied her access to a lawyer and issued a deportation order against her despite the public prosecutor demanding her release on November 25, they said.
“Nada is at home and the decision to deport her has been dropped,” Homsi’s lawyer, Diala Chehade, told The Associated Press, adding that all her papers and documents were given back to her.
#Lebanon's General Security has been detaining US journalist Nada Homsi since Nov16 for unspecified "security reasons," & did not allow her to contact family/lawyer for 6 days after arrest. Her detention is arbitrary & GSO should release her immediately.https://t.co/bC0k9sOJT4 pic.twitter.com/s3tyYP8lHQ— Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) December 8, 2021
The reasons behind the raid on Homsi's apartment and her continued detention remain largely unclear.
Chehade said earlier that the security forces that raided Homsi’s apartment found a small amount of cannabis. Chehade said the officers then called the public prosecutor, who issued an arrest warrant for Homsi and her partner, a Palestinian national. The officers confiscated her electronics and some documents, she said.
General Security members are deployed at Lebanon's border crossings, ports and the country’s only international airport, and the department usually deals with foreigners by issuing visas and residency permits.
Journalists working in Lebanon have increasingly come under attack by authorities that have resorted to the country's courts and security agencies to silence and punish critics, according to rights groups.
On November 26, the military court sentenced journalist Radwan Murtada, a reporter at Lebanon's Al-Akhbar daily, to 13 months in prison for allegedly insulting the military.
Last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to drop Murtada's prosecution, saying the army "has no business trying and sentencing a journalist".