Officers from the anti-terrorism and espionage department initially raided the headquarters of New TV on Saturday to arrest Tahsin Khayyat, Aljazeera correspondent in Beirut said.

They did not find Khayyat at his office, however. Shortly afterwards, the officers went to Khayyat’s house and arrested him there.

Court sources have refused to comment on the case and there has been no word from Khayyat himself. The charge of acting against a friendly country is believed to be a reference either to Syria or Saudi Arabia.

The president of Lebanon’s National Council for Information, Abd al-Hadi Mahfuz, said the issue was related to information obtained by the military court about links between “the owner of the channel and a hostile party”.

“The detention of Khayyat does not effect the transmission of the channel,” said Mahfuz. “It is a personal matter and does not concern the managing company.”

Suspended

New TV is no stranger to controversy. The Lebanese authorities suspended its satellite broadcasts in January after the station trailed a programme Bila Raqib (Uncensored), which intended to tackle domestic issues in Saudi Arabia.

The station’s services were allowed to resume after a few days, following the intervention of President Emile Lahud.

The president’s decision was seen at the time as a reflection of political differences between Lahud’s office and Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

The court banned the programme ostensibly to preserve relations between Beirut and Riyadh and to "protect" the more than 150,000 Lebanese working in Saudi Arabia.