Double Standards in Saida Courts

The public prosecution ordered three young men arrested and later released “to teach them a lesson” after they refused to testify when a problem erupted between their friends and the army. (Photo: Haytham Al Mousawi)

By: Amal Khalil

Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Several recent incidents in Saida have highlighted the public prosecutor’s ad hoc approach to justice, which sees minors jailed with adults and victims of sexual assault charged with indecency.

One of these cases concerns the recent arrest of two boys, aged 14 and 17, who were jailed and charged with attempted theft for trying to steal a pack of cigarettes from a parked car whose windows had been left open.

The man first accused the boys of trying to steal his car, so he dragged them to the police station. After he realized that they only wanted to steal the cigarettes he decided to drop the charges.

But the public prosecutor, who was informed of the incident by the police, refused to release them and used his jurisdiction to jail them. He apparently wanted the boys to “learn their lesson and not repeat what they did.”

“This time they tried to steal a cigarette pack, next time they might steal the car itself,” an eyewitness to the incident quoted the prosecutor as saying.

The two underage boys, who were charged by the prosecution with attempted theft, ended up in Saida’s jail where they are supposed to “learn their lesson,” presumably from the experienced adult criminals with whom they were housed. Most of their cellmates were not there for stealing packs of cigarettes. Many have been arrested on charges of murder, drugs, and theft.

On 13 November 2012, the public rights judge in Saida, Nadine al-Qari, set bail at LL300,000 ($200) for the two underage boys, but the public prosecution appealed that decision and the two are still being held in the minors’ ward at Roumieh prison.

Some might characterize the prosecutor’s zero-tolerance approach as firm, but several other cases have come to light which suggest the selective implementation of the law.

Last Monday night, an unconscious naked girl was found by the side of the road near the cafés on the banks of the Awali River at the northern border of Saida. The worker who found her saw three men fleeing the scene in a car with tinted windows.

The security forces provided the girl with first aid and identified the men, who were found and questioned. They admitted to throwing the girl, naked, into the street. The girl insisted she did not have sexual contact with the men, but the circumstances under which she was found raise questions about the handling of the case.

The public prosecution ordered the men’s release, despite the obvious assault, which consisted at the very least of stripping the girl naked, knocking her out and throwing her on the side of the road. The girl, on the other hand, was arrested and transferred to the office for public morality at the police station.

In another incident, the public prosecution ordered three young men arrested and later released “to teach them a lesson” after they refused to testify when a problem erupted between their friends and the army.

For the same “educational” reasons, a young man was jailed for three days because he set off fireworks and squealed his car tires near the house of a prominent Saida figure.

Another was jailed by the public prosecution on 23 October 2012 for charges of car theft. He languished in a cell in the municipality court without interrogation, because the public prosecution transferred his case to an investigative judge who happened to be outside the country on pilgrimage. The prosecution appeared to have noticed its mistake in early November, when it transferred him to another investigative judge who is actually in the country.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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