Man arrested for ‘insulting Lebanese president on Facebook’

By Adrian Blomfield, Middle East Correspondent

A Lebanese national has been arrested for allegedly insulting the republic’s president, Michel Sleiman, on Facebook.

Ahmad Shuman was detained shortly after he arrived in Beirut’s international airport on a flight from Kiev.

According to prosecutors, Mr Shuman committed “libel, slander and defamation” when he and three friends set up a page on the social networking website to criticise President Sleiman.

Although widely seen as the Arab world’s most democratic state, Lebanon has strict laws created to punish those who insult the president. The office is seen as the embodiment of the republic, although the position of prime minister, presently held by Saad Hariri, is considered more powerful.

The four men created a page on the website that carried the title “We don’t want a hypocrite as president”.

The page has been taken down, but a cached version carried a lengthy essay criticising Mr Sleiman’s performance as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

It also attacked the “vagueness” of his political position, claiming that he had tried to be both pro-American and pro-Syrian at the same time, and that he had ruled out peace with Israel while also backing negotiations with the Jewish state.

The four men called the president “the worst kind of failure” and wrote disparaging comments elsewhere on the website.

“You’re like a snake; all you do is from under the table,” read one.

“You’re not worth my foot,” another.

There were also claims of sectarianism that will be viewed seriously by prosecutors in a country still scarred by years of civil war. read more

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