Ashraf Rifi takes on Al-Akhbar
An opinion piece published by Al-Akhbar's editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin Monday chastising Lebanon's president for standing against Hezbollah has triggered a row with Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi.
Rifi, the former head of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF), and who is closely aligned with the Saudi-backed March 14 Movement, called Monday night on the state prosecutor "to take necessary legal actions" against both Amin and Al-Akhbar for slandering President Michel Sleiman.
Amin responded Tuesday with another piece ridiculing both Sleiman and Rifi which was quickly rebuffed by the ex-police chief over Twitter.
The conflict arose after the publication of Amin’s piece titled “Lebanon Without a President,” in which the newspaper chief accused Sleiman of “moral treason.” Amin has repeatedly attacked Sleiman after he called for disarming Hezbollah late last year.
In the article, Amin also called for an early election to choose a new president who embraces Lebanon’s Resistance as a national mandate.
Sleiman brings Lebanon “shame that will follow us everywhere,” Amin wrote, adding that “keeping his portrait hung on the walls of public offices is an insult to all the Lebanese injured, kidnapped and martyred.”
“Michel Suleiman, if you have any of your modesty left, leave.”
In a statement, Rifi said the article "instigates disobedience and abuse of the military and security institutions."
Amin’s piece included "scornful phrases that insulted and defamed President Michel Suleiman by accusing him of betrayal and dishonesty," Rifi wrote.
He also said that "offending the dignity of the president of the republic ... has nothing to do with freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution and the law.”
Amin hit back Tuesday: “Today we have Michel Sleiman, who is impersonating the president, and Ashraf Rifi, who is impersonating the Minister of Justice. Tomorrow we might face … the Court of Publications, which is becoming more like a mock court which serves the authorities of death and oppression.”
He then scorned Sleiman for a brief scandal in which he and his family were caught with fake French passports in 2004. Amin then challenged Sleiman for not taking responsibility for the deaths of dozens of soldiers killed in Denniyeh in 2000 during a battle with Salafi gunmen.
Amin then attacks Rifi, the "militia leader in Tripoli," who backs armed gangs.
“Will you, General Ashraf Rifi, tell us the story of how you did not take orders from the Minister of Interior and did what you thought was appropriate, then bluntly accuse us of ‘instigating disobedience?’ Will you do what your fellow officers did, and give us a detailed account of how you spent your secret expenditures?”
Amin concluded: “We at Al-Akhbar do not fear any of you for one main reason: You do not know the meaning of real dignity. Your arms haven't hugged a martyr’s body and you haven't heard the gasps of a mother running to receive her son who fights in the Resistance. You haven't had the chance to breathe in pure air that does not contain the poison of an enemy or a traitor.”
“Take your best shot,” Amin added.
Rifi responded to Tuesday’s article in a tweet: "The time for debauchery and insulting has come to an end, and we will build a state where everyone is under the law."