12 December 2003

State blocks early release for Abu Ayyash

The state prosecution continued its investigation on Thursday into the controversial Al-Madina Bank case and refused appeals to release former director-general and bank owner Ibrahim Abu Ayyash until completion of the investigation.
Abu Ayyash demanded release from custody even though there were four cases pending against him regarding his “mismanagement” of the bank. His appeals, which were made by his attorney, Abdullah Rafei, were rejected by Beirut’s chief investigating magistrate, Hatem Madi.
Meanwhile, the assistant state prosecutor, Rabia Qaddoura, listened to bank chairman Adnan Abu Ayyash’s official statement, which was presented by his attorney, Antoine Ghanem.
Ghanem provided a detailed explanation of the documents related to the charges of fraud, embezzlement and violation of monetary and credit law, which Abu Ayyash filed against bank assistant Rana Qoleilat.
He showed Qaddoura documentation related to a savings account signed by Qoleilat and a bank employee, Iman Daher, as well as records showing $800,000 worth of money transactions that Abu Ayyash transferred to his account at the bank.
Abu Ayyash’s attorney also presented a document of cession in which Qoleilat ceded an account at the Agricultural Credit Bank in Switzerland that was later determined to be nonexistent. It was discovered that the number of the account was identical to the Al-Madina Bank post office box number in Beirut, Ghanem said, adding that her account in Switzerland was fake.
After to listening to Ghanem, Qaddoura decided to hold a larger session in the presence of Qoleilat in order to ask her about the content of the charges filed against her.
In the case of the former Agriculture Minister Ali Abdullah and his brother, who were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of embezzling and squandering public funds, Madi ordered both to remain in prison pending the completion of investigations.
In another development, the Publications Court decided to postpone the trial of university professor Adonis Akra, who was accused of undermining Lebanon’s relations with Syria, as well as tarnishing the reputation of the government and the army in a book he wrote after he was arrested in demonstrations on Aug. 7, 2001.
The court rescheduled Akra’s court date for March 10, 2004.
In a different case, investigations regarding an imaginary money trade company in Tyre revealed that Bassam and Ghassan Shaghri, in addition to Jumana Qashaqesh, established a fake stock market.
They allegedly deceived people by telling them that their brokerage firm had relations with world stock markets in London and New York, allowing them to collect around $7 million from depositors.-(DStar)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.