Exonerated Lebanese actor reveals torture details

Exonerated Lebanese actor reveals torture details
Ziad Itani, a Lebanese actor exonerated over charges of collaborating with Israel, has detailed the torture he faced while in detention.
3 min read
16 July, 2018
HRW believes Itani is a test case for Lebanon's new torture law [Getty]

A Lebanese writer and actor, who was falsely indicted on charges of collaborating with Israel and drug possession, has detailed the torture he experienced in detention, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The case by Lebanese prosecutors was closed on 29 May and authorities ordered the arrest of the two suspects accused of making the false claims against Ziad Itani.

The leading rights group called on the Lebanese authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of Itani's allegations of forced disappearance and torture at the hands of Lebanon's State Security.

"Itani's allegations of torture and disappearance demand a thorough investigation into his treatment in detention and why he was arrested in the first place," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"If Itani was indeed framed, then this was a massive miscarriage of justice, and authorities should guarantee that this can never happen again."

Itani said that he was held for six days in what appeared to be an unofficial detention site, where men in civilian clothing tortured him until he signed a confession, and only then turned him over to the military court.

According to the report, the physical torture began after he refused to sign a confession.

"He said four men tied him in a stress position on the floor and one of them hit him with a cable as he screamed. Itani said the men then punched him in the face, chest, and groin and kicked him, and that one man pulled his pants off and hit his genitals," said Fakih.

"He said the men then strapped his wrists to a bar in the doorway so that his feet barely touched the ground and left him in that position for hours."

Itani said the men later took him down and chained him, and that he fell to the floor. They then punched and kicked him in the face and stepped on him, causing him to bleed from the mouth and breaking one of his teeth.

Human Rights Watch were sent a doctor's report documenting injuries to his mouth and seven of his teeth. Itani recalled one man saying, "I don't care, eventually people will applaud us because you are a traitor."

Then they again strapped his wrists to the bar. Itani recalled one of the men speaking on the phone, saying "We can't hand him over yet, there are marks on him."

Itani said one man, who appeared to be in charge, told him they would insert a rod into his anus if he didn't sign a confession, and pointed at another man saying, "This one will ride you, and we don't care because you are a traitor." Itani then agreed to sign.

He was later released in March. Lebanon and Israel are formally at war and collaborating with Israel can be punishable by death.

A former Lebanese security official was arrested after allegedly framing the actor in a revenge scheme falsely linking him to Israel.

Suzan Hajj Hobeiche was once a leading figure in Lebanon's intelligence agency but was sacked in November.

It is believed her firing came after Itani shared a screenshot showing that Hobeiche had "liked" a tweet that said that Saudi women will only be allowed to drive if their vehicles are rigged with explosives.

Hobeiche claimed this was a mistake and blamed Itani for her dismissal, which came amid heightened tensions between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

She then allegedly tried to take revenge by hiring a hacker to make it appear the actor was passing on information about Lebanese officials to a female Israeli Mossad agent.