Two demonstrators apprehended during a protest in Downtown Beirut received a hero’s welcome when they were released Monday after spending 11 days behind bars.
Waref Sleiman was released from the Ramlet al-Baida police station while Pierre Hashash left the Helou police barracks. Each had to post a LL500,000 bail.
Hashash appeared excited as he left the barracks and announced to reporters how eager he was to join the next demonstration so he could pull on the barbed wire, separating police from protestors, again.
Both men had been charged with attacking police, vandalizing public and private property and rioting.
Sleiman and Hashash were both apprehended during an Oct. 8 rally, which started off as peaceful but erupted into a full confrontation between protestors and riot police after demonstrators were denied entry to Nijmeh Square.
Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr Oct. 10 charged 30 protestors for allegedly clashing with the police. At the time 11 were already in custody while 19 were at large.
Sleiman also appeared upbeat when he left the station, saying he had been strengthened by the ordeal.
Following his release he said he was heading to the hospital to check on Mohammad Harez, who had attempted to immolate himself in front of the Military Tribunal last week to protest his friend’s detention.
The pair also made their way to the Military Tribunal in order to thank supporters who had set up tents outside the court in solidarity.
Sleiman and Hashash were the last of the protesters arrested Oct. 8 to be freed. Their release came after civil society groups demonstrated in front of police stations calling for their peers’ freedom almost daily.
Sleiman was the first to initiate a hunger strike in order to pressure Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk to resign. Hashash is an active social media personality famous for his videos criticizing the government and politicians.
Civil society campaigns including “You Stink” and “We Want Accountability” rallied Oct. 8 to pressure the government into finding a sustainable solution to the garbage crisis.
Hundreds called on Prime Minister Tammam Salam to convene an emergency Cabinet session to find a solution before the rainy season.
Thirty-three protesters were originally detained, according to State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud. Most were released days later.