Beirut protesters demand release of bank heist detainees

BEIRUT — Protesters clashed with Lebanese security forces outside the Justice Ministry in Beirut on Monday, demanding the release of two men arrested during a bank robbery last week.

The clash came as a delegation from the International Monetary Fund met with officials in Beirut to discuss the country’s economic woes and the government’s limited efforts to pull Lebanon out of the worst economic crisis in its modern history. of This crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement.

The Lebanese government has implemented some of the IMF’s demands. A staff-level agreement was reached with the IMF in April. This L Five “key pillars” should be implemented, including financial sector restructuring, implementation of financial reforms, proposed restructuring of external public debt, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering efforts.

The agreement also called for the country’s 14 largest banks to be held as a benchmark for restructuring the sector as they hold nearly 80 percent of the market. Small banks that have problems should be taken over by big lenders.

Anger against local lenders, which have been enforcing informal capital controls, including ATM withdrawal limits, for nearly three years has grown in recent weeks, with some depositors storming bank branches and taking their money. Force out trapped savings.

Protests outside the Justice Ministry on Monday called for the release of Abdul Rahman Zakaria and Mohammad Rustam, who have been detained since Wednesday after they entered a bank branch and treated a depositor for his sister’s cancer. Helped to get my stuck savings to pay.

They joined. Sally Hafeez, who used a toy pistol to withdraw $13,000 from her frozen savings account.. Hafeez, who is in hiding, has said she repeatedly went to the bank to ask for her money and was told she could only withdraw $200 a month in Lebanese pounds.

on Friday Depositors, including one armed with a hunting rifle, stormed into at least five banks to demand their stranded savings. The largest number of such incidents in a single day. Banks have closed all branches for three days from Monday, citing security concerns.

At one point on Monday, dozens of protesters tried to storm the Justice Ministry after they removed a metal gate. It is feared that if the two persons are not released, the protests may intensify.

Elsewhere in Beirut, protesters briefly blocked several major roads in protest against deteriorating living conditions, including almost non-existent state electricity, a crash in the Lebanese pound and growing poverty that fueled the economic crisis in October 2019. Three-quarters of the population has been affected since the crisis began.

The Lebanese pound hit a new low of 38,600 pounds against the US dollar on Monday.

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