Prominent Lebanese actor and playwright Ziad Itani has been arrested for allegedly “collaborating with the Israeli enemy” in plots targeting political leaders in the country.
Lebanon’s State Security Forces said on Friday the charges centre on Itani’s alleged help in Israeli plans to assassinate current and former Lebanese officials, as well as efforts to normalise relations with Israel throughout his career.
Itani was detained at his home in Beirut on Thursday night “after several months of monitoring, follow-up and investigations within and outside” Lebanon, it said.
The statement said Itani confessed during interrogation to being in contact with Israeli agents in Turkey, where he gave them “extensive” information on two prominent political figures while monitoring a larger group of politicians.
Itani has performed in plays that tackle Lebanon’s sectarian divide. His first acting role came in 2013 in Tarik al-Jaddideh, a play written and directed by Yehia Jaber, a survivor of the Lebanese civil war.
Tarik al-Jaddideh is named for a predominately Sunni neighbourhood in Beirut, and Itani reportedly grew up near there. Itani played 14 characters in the one-man play that lambasted societal norms.
News of the arrest came the same day the Lebanese National News Agency reported an Israeli gunboat entered Lebanese waters three times.
Lebanon and Israel have been at war since 1948, the year Israel declared statehood, displacing more than 700,000 Palestinians in the process.