Lebanon slaps travel ban on Ghosn

Public prosecutor reportedly also to keep investigating whether Ghosn helped normalise economic relations with Israel.

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    Many in Lebanon view Ghosn as an archetype of the country's large diaspora, greater in size than Lebanon's population at home and lionised for the success of many of its members [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]
    Many in Lebanon view Ghosn as an archetype of the country's large diaspora, greater in size than Lebanon's population at home and lionised for the success of many of its members [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

    Beirut, Lebanon- A top Lebanese judge has issued a travel ban on former Nissan CEO-turned-international fugitive Carlos Ghosn over a non-binding Interpol arrest warrant relating to charges of financial misconduct that Ghosn is facing in Japan.

    The state-run National News Agency reported that Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat would also continue investigating Ghosn - who has French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship - over charges that the former Nissan boss participated in normalising economic relations with Israel during visits there.

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    Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, and its citizens are forbidden from travelling there or interacting with Israelis. Ghosn visited Israel at least once, in 2008, while CEO of Renault to sign a deal with an Israeli electric car maker. He met with then-Israeli President Shimon Peres.

    Ghosn has since said he regretted the trip and did not mean to "upset" the Lebanese people.

    Caretaker Justice Minister Albert Serhan told Al Jazeera that Ghosn would remain under a travel ban until all the details of his case, including the charges against him, arrived from Japan and could be assessed by a Lebanese judge. The judge would then take a decision on whether to send Ghosn's case to trial.

    Serhan added that Ghosn is receiving no special treatment. "You saw this today - he was called into investigation and was interrogated like any other citizen would be," Serhan said.

    Asked whether the justice ministry was concerned Ghosn may attempt to flee trial in Lebanon given he fled Japan rather than face trial there, Serhan said it was up to security agencies to prevent that from happening.

    "Of course, if he leaves Lebanon that would be a problem," Serhan said.

    Despite the legal proceedings against Ghosn, Ricardo Karam, a prominent Lebanese media personality and Ghosn's close friend, told Al Jazeera that he believed the former Nissan CEO was still happy with his choice to come to Lebanon, given the conditions of his detention in Japan.

    "He was not escaping justice, he was seeking freedom and is looking for justice," Karam said.

    Ghosn had said as much at a long news conference in Beirut on Wednesday - his first since he dramatically evaded Japanese authorities by jumping bail in Japan late last year.

    He said his human rights to a fair and speedy trial were not being upheld in Japan and that he is innocent on charges filed against him by Tokyo prosecutors, including allegations that he misstated his income over many years.

    Rather than escape justice, Ghosn said he is seeking to stand trial in order to restore his reputation.

    The charges against Ghosn have not stopped some prominent Lebanese politicians from calling for him to take on an official government position. But the former auto industry leader on Wednesday said he does not want one.

    Druze leader Walid Joumblatt, the head of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party, is advocating for Ghosn to be given Lebanon's energy portfolio, which for 10 years has been held by the Free Patriotic Movement, one of his political rivals.

    Lebanon remains without round-the-clock electricity 30 years after its civil war and has seen blackouts spike over the past 24 hours due to austerity imposed on the purchase of fuel for power plants.

    In a tweet, Joumblatt said Ghosn "built an empire and we should benefit from his expertise".

    Many in Lebanon view Ghosn as an archetype of the country's large diaspora, greater in size than Lebanon's population at home and lionised for the success of many of its members.

    Soon after Ghosn's arrest in Japan in November 2019, images of his face, with the words, "We are all Carlos Ghosn," printed below it, went up across parts of Beirut.

    But some have also seen his arrival in Lebanon at a time of immense economic and financial crisis as adding to the burdens on the country.

    Japan, a major donor to Lebanon that pledged $10m in soft loans for infrastructure projects at a conference in 2018, has urged Lebanon to cooperate on the charges levelled against Ghosn in order to maintain friendly relations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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