Beirut, Lebanon – Lebanese legislator Jamil Sayyed has said protesters who gather outside the homes of officials should be “shot”, sparking outrage and calls for his prosecution in a country gripped by months of anti-establishment demonstrations.
Sayyed’s comments, meant as advice to officials, came during a news conference in Parliament on Wednesday.
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“Those [protesters] that come to in front of someone’s house – I’ll tell you from now, even if you don’t have guards, I’m responsible for what I say: Shoot them from your window, if your daughter or son are at home and they say something out of line about you.”
Sayyed, who was elected to Parliament in 2018 on a Hezbollah-sponsored list, doubled down on Thursday, tweeting: “My words were intentional, they were not a slip of the tongue.”
A group of lawyers, including prominent activist and protester Wassef Harake, on Thursday submitted a complaint at the public prosecutor’s office over Sayyed’s alleged “incitement to kill” protesters.
Paula Yacoubian, the only member of Parliament to be elected on an independent list, called on Parliament to take a stance on the matter.
“Threatening people and encouraging violence and killing will not pass,” she wrote on Twitter.
An adviser to Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najem told Al Jazeera the minister was aware of the complaint filed against Sayyed but would not involve herself in the matter, citing the separation of powers between the executive branch and the judiciary.
Protests at officials’ homes
Protest groups that were born out of Lebanon’s unprecedented anti-establishment uprising of October 2019 have held dozens of demonstrations outside the homes of officials and businessmen they deemed to be corrupt.
A convoy of protesters stopped outside Sayyed’s house on May 27, demanding his resignation and calling him “corrupt” and “the MP of security intelligence”.
Sayyed headed Lebanon’s top intelligence agency General Security from 1998 to 2005 during Syria’s occupation of Lebanon.
He was imprisoned for four years in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, though he was never charged and was later ordered released by a special tribunal prosecuting Hariri’s killing, because his arrest was deemed arbitrary.
Sayyed has styled himself as a firebrand politician focused on fighting corruption. He said he prefers to be referred to by his old military title, major general, instead of “MP”.
Sayyed has also expressed support for the uprising at various junctures, but remains a staunch ally of Hezbollah, one of the country’s main establishment parties that hundreds of thousands rose up against.
While a nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus led to a lull in nationwide protests, few days go by without a demonstration taking place somewhere in the country.
Protesters are demanding accountability for decades of corruption and mismanagement that led Lebanon into its worst-ever economic crisis. They have also called for an independent, transitional government to be appointed to write up a new electoral law and then hold early elections.