Lebanon Muhamad Mugraby acquitted
3 December 2008

Lebanon Muhamad Mugraby acquitted

Good news from Beirut: in a break-through verdict, a Lebanese judge ruled that criticism of the human rights situation in Lebanon is protected by the fundamental right to freedom of expression. On 27 November 2008, Muhamad Mugraby, prominent lawyer and human rights activist, was acquitted of ‘contempt of officials of the State’. Mugraby was accused in 2003 after he had made a statement before the European Parliament about the grave abuses within the Lebanese judicial system.

Mugraby had already been prosecuted, arrested and imprisoned because of this statement in 2004. After a storm of international protests and a visit from a large delegation of Dutch lawyers he was acquitted by a military criminal judge. In Lebanon as well, it is not permitted to prosecute someone twice for the same facts (ne bis in idem). Still, it happened, in violation of article 14(7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The outcome of the second trial against Mugraby nevertheless gives hope for the future.

Mugraby has always maintained that his criticism of the Lebanese authorities was only meant to improve the integrity, independence and effectiveness of the judicial system. The judge accepted Mugraby’s point of view: “his argument, as part of his presentation (before the European Parliament), lacks every form of contempt and can be qualified as both scholarly as practical.” The judge rules that “the statements of the suspect are expressions of a legal point of view, within the parameters of the law and without transgression of the law.”

The ruling is remarkable, since for many years now, Mugraby has been subjected to intimidation and prosecution by criminal and military courts. In all instances Mugraby is attacked for his critical attitude towards Lebanese authorities in general and the judicial system in particular. Now the judge has ruled that Mugraby’s statement before the European Parliament did not result in contempt of officials of the State, the same decision should be made for all the other cases Mugraby and other human rights activists who have denounced the shortcomings of the constitutional state.

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