Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun Wednesday called on the Higher Judicial Council to take “a clear position” on TV host Marcel Ghanem, whom she accuses of targeting her “in an unjustified and harmful way, not just for me but for the entire judicial body, in order to terrorize all the judges who try to open cases which displease a particular politician or a particular journalist.”
Here’s what we know:
• On his TV show “Sar el Wa2et” on local television channel MTV last Thursday, Ghanem began his introduction criticizing the judge. “Welcome to a state dominated by Hezbollah which has set itself the goal of making its allies succeed. The first manifestation of this was the prosecution brought by Judge Ghada Aoun against certain people, and on certain issues,” said Ghanem. “The judge, who didn’t have the audacity to investigate [Hezbollah-affiliated microfinance institution] Al-Qard Al-Hassan, or post a single tweet against Captagon trafficking, and who didn’t arrest even one of the shooters in [the] Tayyouneh [clashes],” Ghanem continued, adding that instead she “decided today to arrest Raja Salameh the brother of the governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salamh.”
• In a statement, Judge Aoun said “Journalist Marcel Ghanem attacked me in an unprecedented way, my only fault being to exercise all my prerogatives in the investigations and prosecutions that I engage … and that disturbs him as well as his masters.” Ghanem is accused by many of working in the interests of bankers and of Riad Salameh, as he is seen as constantly defending them.
• “I reserve the right to file a complaint against the mentioned journalist,” Judge Aoun added.
• Jad Shahrour, communications officer at the Samir Kassir Foundation, which defends media and cultural freedoms, told L’Orient Today that “for us as a human rights organization, this scene is not acceptable and it is a violation of the freedom of the journalist [Marcel Ghanem].”
• Shahrour, who described Aoun as being “politicized,” also asked “When will the courts understand that a journalist has the right to ask questions? What should change in the mentality is that protecting the journalists should come first, and the content [of a journalist’s statements] should be analyzed, and after that, it should be determined if what was stated has really caused danger or not, or if there is a real need for prosecution,” he added.
• Ghanem was called for questioning in 2017 following an interview with a Saudi journalist who had attacked President Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and then-Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. He had accused them of being “Hezbollah’s partners in terrorism.”
• Last Thursday, Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun issued an arrest warrant against Raja Salameh, after he was interrogated at a courthouse east of Beirut.
• Salameh has been in detention since last Thursday after Judge Aoun filed charges against him.
• Judge Ghada Aoun also charged Riad Salameh Monday with illicit enrichment and ordered the seizure of all his real estate. The accusations concern apartments Salameh acquired in France, as well as real estate offices BDL rented on Paris’ Champs-Elysees from the central bank governor’s former companion, Anna Kosakova.