Expatica news

Deal struck with UAE to free 11 citizens: Lebanese official

A deal has been struck with the United Arab Emirates to release from custody 11 Lebanese citizens, one of whom has already flown home, a top Lebanese official said Monday.

One was released from the UAE and flown home on Sunday, while “the ten others should arrive tomorrow”, Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security apparatus, told AFP.

It was not immediately clear why they had been detained.

But with Gulf nations rocked by tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the UAE has in recent years expelled or sentenced to jail dozens of Lebanese Shiites over alleged ties to Hezbollah, a Tehran-backed Lebanese group Abu Dhabi classifies as a “terrorist” organisation.

Ibrahim, who is close to Hezbollah, said he had been working towards releasing some of the detainees for the past two years after their families asked him to help. Others had been in jail for four to eight months.

An easing of regional tensions allowed progress, and an initial four Lebanese were released as a gesture of goodwill in mid-January, he said.

However, even accounting for the four individuals freed in mid January and the deal for 11 more to come home, another 15 Lebanese will remain in the UAE facing trial, Ibrahim said.

Lebanese news agency NNA on Sunday said one individual released from the UAE had landed in Beirut.

Amnesty International reported on May 15, 2019 that an Emirati court had that day sentenced a Lebanese man to life imprisonment and two compatriots to 10 years in prison on charges of planning attacks on behalf of Hezbollah.

Emirati state news agency WAM reported on the same date that the Abu Dhabi Federal Appeal Court sentenced “three Arab nationals” to life and two others to 10 years in a case involving charges against 11 people of “forming a terror cell affiliated to Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as planning acts of terrorism”.

Eight of the accused were Lebanese citizens resident in the United Arab Emirates for more than 15 years, seven of them as employees of Dubai-based airline Emirates, Amnesty said.

They were arrested between December 2017 and February 2018 and put on trial under terrorism charges.

Since 2011, Ibrahim has repeatedly interceded to release Lebanese and non-Lebanese detainees from foreign countries, including in neighbouring war-torn Syria and in Iran.