A Salafi Emirate in Amioun Prison

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The proclamation of an Islamic emirate within a Lebanese prison is no longer a novel development. (Photo: Ramzi Haidar)

By: Radwan Mortada

Published Monday, January 14, 2013

At the Amioun Prison in North Lebanon, one prisoner has become notorious: Adel Gh. From behind bars, Adel has attempted to establish a mini Islamic emirate, imposing the strictures of sharia law on fellow prisoners and preaching jihad against the wardens.

An Internal Security Forces (ISF) report names six prisoners who were forced to trim their facial hair in accordance with Adel’s demands, though another prisoner contacted by Al-Akhbar said the group had willingly pledged their allegiance to him.

Adel – whose relatives have blocked the road to Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh district to demand his release – did not previously have Islamist leanings. Acquaintances in the neighborhood say he used to peddle hashish and was addicted to hallucinogenic pills.

The jailbird-emir did not confine his writ to whisker-trimming. According to the ISF report, he actively promoted sectarian violence among prisoners. He organized beatings of several Syrian prisoners on the grounds that they were regime supporters, compelling them to curse Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while being thrashed.

The Amioun emirate has confounded prison guards. On one occasion, a quarrel involving Adel ended with another prisoner, identified as Hussein M., stacking prison furniture in a pile and threatening to torch it. The report stated that Hussein had been asked to help recruit as many prisoners as possible into the Salafi emirate with the aim of starting a mutiny at the prison.

Two years ago, Adel led a mutiny of 30 prisoners at the Qibbeh Prison in Tripoli where he was imprisoned for five years on charges of car theft, among other crimes. The group took six wardens hostage, eventually releasing them after negotiations. He later staged a similar revolt with the help of ten prisoners who had been transferred to the facility from Roumieh Prison.

Adel also staged an escape from Qibbeh along with two other prisoners. Two days later, security forces tracked them to a house in the Nabi Youshei hills in Meniyyeh and captured the trio after an exchange of gunfire. Adel tried to escape again, making off in a hijacked car. He didn’t make it far and was returned to the prison.

The proclamation of an Islamic emirate within a Lebanese prison is no longer a novel development. Islamist prisoners at Roumieh were the pioneers in this regard. The question, though, is how serious the Amioun prisoners are in their bid.

Maybe the emirate was proclaimed in despair. After the failure of Adel’s mutinies and escape bids, this move could be a way to attract attention to his case and possible injustices.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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