Lebanese authorities on Tuesday detained a web developer for criticizing President Michel Sleiman and other politicians over Twitter.
Jean Assy said he was summoned to the cyber crimes office in Beirut and questioned over Tweets calling the head of state an “akrout,” which roughly translates to “hooligan” or “delinquent.”
“I was called in for an investigation. I didn’t know it was about bashing the president. So I came today and was shocked to learn that it was about tweets I made a few months ago,” he told Al-Akhbar shortly after his release.
According to him the investigation lasted for about an hour, but he was then held for another 4-5 hours before meeting with a judge. The judge asked him to sign a document vowing not to criticize the presidency, and then released him without charge.
Minister of Communications Nicolas Sehnaoui criticized the detention and called for President Sleiman to be “tolerant.”
"I get everyday all sorts of tweets ..., however we never acted upon them since we believe that freedom of speech is one of Lebanon's last remaining values,” Sehnaoui wrote on Twitter after learning that Assy had been detained.
Minister of Energy and Water Gebran Bassil also tweeted in support of Assy, writing that “arresting people for their tweets is outrageous.”
Assy said that investigators also questioned him over other Tweets criticizing Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Future Party leader Saad Hariri, and Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel.
After leaving the investigation office, Assy said he discovered that one of his car windows had been shattered.
“I was parked next to a police station,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a message or what.”
In 2011, Lebanese singer Zeid Hamdan was briefly detained for a reggae song satirizing Lebanese politics and urging warlords, corrupt politicians and President Sleiman to “go home.”
Authorities also arrested three men in 2010 for criticizing Sleiman over Facebook. They were held for 11 days before being released without charge.
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