Lebanese teacher arrested over alleged sexual harassment of schoolgirls
A Lebanese high school teacher was held for questioning on Friday over several allegations of sexual abuse filed against him by his students, local media reported on Saturday.
Samer Mawlawi, a teacher at the George Sarraf High School in Tripoli city, was accused in December of sending inappropriate messages and inappropriately touching some of his young female students.
He allegedly fled from the northern Lebanon city on 6 December, after students approached the school management to make allegations against him, calling for his immediate dismissal and punishment, according to independent news platform Megaphone.
With no measures initially taken against the suspected harasser, angry students – male and female – protested outside the school and even tried to storm the headmaster’s office. They accused him of "complicity", and of trying to cover up the scandal.
Subsequently, the case gained traction on social media platforms, sparking a Lebanese "Me Too" movement.
Mawlawi turned himself in for questioning last week but walked free after signing a restraining order, according to local media reports.
His release sparked public outcry.
"What Mawlawi did is considered a crime under the new law criminalising sexual harassment. It's not a misdemeanour. Where is justice? Where is the application of the law?” Khaled Merheb the students' lawyer said, according to Lebanon's news agency NNA.
Sexual harassarer #SamerMawlawi is in custody pending investigation, by decision of North Lebanon Prosecutor Matilda Touma, following an nquiry by the Tripoli Investigation Branch.— Megaphone (@megaphone_news) April 2, 2022
./1#Tripoli #Harassment #Harasser #WomensRights #Lebanon https://t.co/xglvZc9EEe
The backlash led to his re-arrest on Friday, and he is to remain in custody as the investigation continues, according to news site Al-Modon.
"This is the first time a sexual harasser is arrested under the new law criminalizing harassment, passed in December 2020," Megaphone said on Twitter, referring to Lebanon’s recent sexual harassment law.
It is likely that Mawlawi will be tried under that law, according to Al-Modon, which added that the case was now being closely followed because it was "forging a new path when it comes to interpreting the law on harassment crimes".
As per the landmark law, which was passed in late 2020, perpetrators can be sentenced to up to two years in prison and fined up to 20 times the value of the minimum wage, which stands at 675,000 Lebanese pounds ($450 at the official exchange rate but less than $100 on the black market), according to Lebanese rights group Legal Agenda.
Maximum penalties are reserved for harassment in the workplace, public institutions or educational facilities.