American journalist detained in Lebanon released after appeal by rights groups | Media News

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International said journalist Nada Homsi was arbitrarily detained.

Lebanese authorities released a freelance American journalist who was detained in Beirut last month, hours after two international human rights groups called her detention arbitrary and demanded her release, her lawyer said.

Nada Homsi was arrested on November 16 after her home in Beirut was raided by members of Lebanon’s General Directorate of Security “without judicial order” and was denied access to a lawyer, Amnesty said on Wednesday. International and Human Rights Watch in a joint statement.

Homsi’s lawyer, Diala Chehade, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “Nada is at home and the decision to deport her has been dropped,” adding that all her papers and documents had been returned to her.

Homsi, a freelance journalist working for US media National Public Radio (NPR), was detained until Wednesday after Lebanon’s attorney general ordered her release on November 25.

“The General Security’s refusal to release Homsi despite the public prosecutor’s order is a blatant abuse of power and a very worrying indication of the security agency’s lack of respect for the rule of law,” said Aya Majzoub. , Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, during her call. for his release.

Homsi was charged with drug possession after General Security found a small amount of cannabis in her home and charged her with drug use, her lawyer Chehade said earlier on Wednesday, but agents from the agency said that she was being held for “security reasons”.

No security or military charges were filed against Homsi, although General Security officers claimed the raid on his home was based on security intelligence gathered by their information unit, according to the groups statement. defense of rights.

Homsi was also denied access to a lawyer for six days and, in violation of Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was interrogated without a lawyer present, according to Chehade. Homsi was told by officers that “these rights do not apply to General Security”.

Under Lebanese law, a person can be detained without charge for up to 96 hours and then must be released if no charges are filed.

Chehade said General Security continued to detain Homsi on the pretext that she was working in the country without a proper work permit, and the agency issued a deportation order against her about two years ago. weeks.

Diala Haidar, Lebanon activist at Amnesty International, had previously called on General Security to “immediately release Homsi and give him a real opportunity to challenge his deportation before a competent, independent and credible tribunal”.

“They must refrain from detaining individuals in connection with their immigration status, and promptly identify and hold accountable those suspected of being responsible within its structure for violating Homsi’s due process rights. “

Homsi’s detention came amid what rights groups have called a crackdown on journalists in Lebanon by state and non-state actors.

According to the Samir Kassir Center for Media and Cultural Freedom (SKeyes), a media and press freedom watchdog in Beirut, more than 100 media workers were attacked by non-state actors between the beginning of the uprising in October 2019 and November 2021.

Rights groups said security agencies routinely attack journalists doing their job, especially when covering protests. Yet responsibility for these abuses remains elusive, with Lebanese authorities using the broad jurisdiction of military courts to silence and punish peaceful dissent or criticism of security agencies.