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Maharat condemns brief detention of singer accused of defaming the president

(Maharat/IFEX) - On 26 July 2011, Lebanese judicial authorities summoned musician and singer Zeid Hamdan. Hamdan was detained for several hours at the Justice Palace prison based on an accusation that he had defamed the Lebanese president in a song entitled "General Suleiman" on the album "Storm".

The song, which criticizes the Lebanese political situation and asks President Suleiman to "go", was written two years ago and had recently been posted on YouTube.

Hamdan's lawyer, Nizar Saghieh, told Maharat that the action against the musician began after a DVD containing a video of the song was sent by courier from the director of the videoclip, who is based in Italy, to its producer in Lebanon. In the process, the DVD was transferred to the General Security Department, which screens audiovisual material coming from abroad for illegal content.

Saghieh called for support for freedom of expression and creativity and asked the Lebanese authorities to stop unnecessarily detaining and prosecuting individuals in these types of cases.

This is not the first time someone has been arrested for defaming the president. In 2010, three young men were arrested for comments they wrote on Facebook against President Suleiman.

Maharat calls on the Lebanese authorities to protect freedom of speech and the right to express political critiques in a variety of ways, including by artistic expression. The organisation also urges the authorities to stop the prior censorship of artistic and creative works carried out by the General Security Department in violation of the law on creative works.

Maharat stresses the necessity of the adoption of the legal reforms included in its proposal registered in collaboration with MP Moukhaiber and being discussed in the Parliament, which would prohibit the detention of people for expressing their opinions in the same way stipulated for journalists working for the print media.

Saghieh told Maharat that the prosecutor is expected to decide whether to dismiss the case against Hamdan or charge him.

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