Lebanon frees actor held over 'collaboration' with Israel
Lebanon on Tuesday released a prominent writer and actor from custody, a judicial source said, after months in detention over allegedly "collaborating" with Israel.
A military judge ordered Ziad Itani's release, the source said, after he was arrested in November and accused of "collaborating and communicating" with the neighbouring state.
The judge also issued an arrest warrant for a high-ranking female officer accused of framing him, the source said.
The former head of a security unit fighting cybercrime, Suzan al-Hajj, was detained for questioning earlier this month over suspicions she had enlisted the help of a hacker to fabricate conversations between the actor and an Israeli woman.
Lebanon, which technically remains at war with its southern neighbour, upholds a boycott of Israeli products and of contact with its nationals.
In November, the State Security Directorate General said Itani was being questioned "on charges of collaborating and communicating with the Israeli enemy".
The actor in his 40s was detained "after several months of monitoring, follow-up and investigations within and outside", it said.
Itani had allegedly confessed to having been "tasked to monitor a group of high-level political figures" and their associates.
But people close to the actor said his "confession" was extracted under duress, though the authorities have denied the accusation.
Itani flashed a "V" sign for victory as he left prison, and broke down in tears as he said he had been "subjected to the greatest injustice" in Lebanon's history.
Meeting Itani after his release on Tuesday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the security apparatus had received "wrong information".
A source close to the investigation earlier this month said Hajj was suspected of having framed Itani to seek revenge after Itani shed light on her liking a controversial post on Twitter last year, after which she was demoted.
Itani has shot to prominence in recent years because of a series of comedy plays on Beirut, its customs and the transformations it has undergone in recent decades.
The works -- particularly "Beirut Tariq al-Jdideh", which refers to a majority-Sunni neighbourhood of the city -- have been very well-received.
Before becoming an actor, Itani worked as a journalist with Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television channel and with various regional newspapers.