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Harb fires back at Jreissati on Ghanem case.

Summary: Batroun MP Boutros Harb Wednesday released a statement criticizing Justice Minister Salim Jreissati for what he said was Jreissati's complete change in personality since taking on the mantle of justice minister a year ago.

BEIRUT: Batroun MP Boutros Harb Wednesday released a statement criticizing Justice Minister Salim Jreissati for what he said was Jreissati's complete change in personality since taking on the mantle of justice minister a year ago.

Harb's response came after Jreissati spoke to local news channel OTV overnight Tuesday, saying in comments published on the TV's website that Harb should abide by the law.

Harb had given a news conference in which he blasted the case against TV presenter Marcel Ghanem, which is based on charges of contempt stemming from Ghanem's refusal to hand over information about two Saudi journalists who had made controversial comments on his show last month, as well as insulting comments Ghanem allegedly made about Jreissati and the judiciary.

"If he spoke as an MP, what he said is politics, but if he spoke as a lawyer, he should have gotten permission to speak," Jreissati said of Harb's news conference.

"The investigation [into Ghanem] is secret, and the disclosure of secrets connected to an investigation is a crime punishable by law ... but you did disclose them," he added, addressing Harb.

Harb responded Wednesday, saying, "You are not in a position to give sermons to those who have spent their lives respecting laws and fighting for the independence of the judiciary," in a statement carried by the state-run National News Agency.

"Our call, and the call of all free people of this country, is that you abide by the law and respect the independence of the judiciary," Harb added.

He also said that Jreissati should not pass on selective information to the public prosecutor, and that it was not his role, "as justice minister, to [stifle] freedom of opinion and information.

He went on to critique the distinction made by Jreissati between Harb speaking as an MP or as a lawyer.

"I held the news conference in both stated roles, and most importantly, I held it as a free Lebanese citizen who believes in the system of freedoms that we have paid for with the blood of martyrs," Harb said.

"As for obtaining permission [to speak] as a lawyer," Harb said, "this is not your concern -- it is confined to me and the Bar Association, which has not once applied the provision of obtaining permission."

Harb added that Jreissati could not distinguish between the disclosure of secrets of an investigation and the presentation of facts "unrelated to the content of the investigation."

That Jreissati had said Harb had violated the secrecy of the investigation indicated that Jreissati himself had knowledge of the investigation's details, Harb claimed, "which show's his intervention in the course of the investigation."

"Finally, please ask the Public Prosecutor's Office to prosecute me for the crime of disclosing the secret of the investigation, which I did not know. You may expose your intentions and the hidden intentions of those who advise you."

The Higher Judicial Council Wednesday evening issued a statement defending the approach of the Judge overseeing the case, Mount Lebanon Investigative Judge Nicolas Mansour.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Dec 21, 2017
Words:552
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