Lebanese Christians bemoan arrest of Archbishop

Protesting Christians in Lebanon (Image credit: CP)

The Christian community in Lebanon has bemoaned the arrest and interrogation of one of its Archbishops, Musa al-Hajj after he returned from a trip in Israel.

According to the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD), the cleric’s arrest was ordered by the Military Court's Government Commissioner, Judge Fadi Akiki, on July 19, 2022.

Musa al-Hajj is the archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land. He is also the patriarchal vicar for Jerusalem, the Palestinian Territories and the Hashemite Kingdom.

The archbishop had visited the Christian Maronite community while on his trip to Israel. Many of the people he visited in the community were refugees of the civil war from the 1975-1990.

AMCD stated that Al-Hajj was interrogated because the Lebanese government assumed he assisted some Lebanese citizens to obtain relief from their family members in Israel amidst the dwindling Lebanese economy.

Arab News reported that the cleric was detained for 11 hours after he was accused of bringing in a huge sum of dollars into the country. He only regained his freedom because the judiciary and church officials intervened in his case.

International Christian Concern (ICC) said that Al-Hajj was summoned for military court interrogations. He also received a travel ban by the courts. 

A reliable source told AFP that Hajj ignored the summons of the military court which he was given for allegedly violating boycott laws enforced on money laundering and on Israel.

AMCD reported that "Lebanese sources believe this is an attempt to pressure (Maronite) Patriarch al-Rahi to change his position in favor of UN resolution 1559 regarding the disarming of all militias and liberating Lebanon from all foreign meddling, specifically from the domination of the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah."

Besides, AMCD is worried that the Lebanese military courts are being used against civilians.

The group said, "This military court has issued many other arrest warrants against those opposing the terrorist organization Hezbollah, even against American citizens, in an apparent effort to stifle their activism and freedom of speech. This abuse of power has been going on for some time but has escalated recently." 

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