Lebanon to release protesters detained after night of riots

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s public prosecutor yesterday ordered the release of more than 30 people detained the previous evening, according to the National State News agency, in the worst day of violence since protests erupted three months ago.

The public prosecutor said all 34 arrested are to be released, except those with other pending cases.

The clashes took place with the backdrop of a rapidly worsening financial crisis and an ongoing impasse over the formation of a new government.

The Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in October 2019. Protesters have called for more rallies yesterday.

Riot police fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets in Beirut on Saturday to disperse thousands of protesters rallied outside the parliament and in downtown.

The protesters, who came from the country’s north, east and Beirut, lobbed flares at security forces, metal bars, stones and tree branches. The pitched street battles lasted for nearly nine hours and were among the worst scene of rioting since protests broke out in mid-October.

At least 220 people were injured in the clashes, according to the Red Cross. More than 80 of those were treated in hospitals, including a protester who sustained an eye injury, as well as security force members. The clashes also took place in the courtyard and steps of a mosque downtown. The top Muslim Sunni Fatwa office called it “inappropriate” and said protesters had taken refuge inside the mosque and were taken care of.

Protesters smashed windows and the facade of the headquarters of the country’s Banking Association with metal bars. Security forces set fire to a few tents set up by protesters nearby.

Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said on Saturday that security forces were ordered to protect peaceful protests. “But for the protests to turn into a blatant attack on the security forces and public and private properties, this is condemned and totally unacceptable,” she tweeted.

An anti-government protester receives treatment after confrontation with Lebanese riot police inside the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in Beirut, Lebanon. PHOTO: AP