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News | Lebanon

Military Court acquits man on trial for Facebook post
May 29, 2017
Source: The Daily Star
The Military Court Friday acquitted a Lebanese activist of charges related to a Facebook post that he wrote last year, after several human rights organizations had denounced his trial. Selman Samaha was summoned to appear before the court Friday, according to Human Rights Watch, adding that the charges leveled against him were of “offending the reputation of the military institution.” The charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
Samaha, according to a report shared by the organization, was investigated by the Military Police on Oct. 27, 2016, after posting statements on Facebook that reportedly mentioned the Lebanese Army. His case was then referred to the Military Court for trial.
 “Referring the case to a military tribunal violates Samaha’s right to a fair trial. The military tribunal cannot provide guarantees of impartiality and independence, and does not protect his due process rights,” HRW said in a statement, before the verdict was issued.
HRW, along with organizations including Samir Kassir Eyes, Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, and ALEF act for human rights, had lambasted authorities for not abiding by their obligations to protect people from “unfair trials.”
The organizations also underscored the need to respect freedom of expression.
This wasn’t the first time activists had been summoned for posts shared on social media platforms. Before Samaha, Nabil al-Halabi, Bassel el-Amin, Hassan Saad and Ahmad Amhaz, among others, were in similar positions.
The trying of civilians in military courts was criticized by the United Nations Committee against Torture, before which Lebanon appeared for the first time in April since ratifying the treaty it oversees in 2000.
In the committee’s concluding remarks published May 12, the body’s 10 independent experts reiterated serious concerns that “the military court system in Lebanon still enjoys jurisdiction to examine criminal cases involving civilians, including children.”
The committee recommended that “the state should, without further delay, prohibit military courts from exercising jurisdiction over civilians.”