Lebanese tourist accused of ‘insulting Egypt’ sentenced to 8 years in jail

A Lebanese tourist accused of “insulting Egypt” on a viral video has been sentenced to 8 years in prison by a Cairo court, Al Jazeera reported.

Mona El-Mazboh, 24, was arrested last month after posting a Facebook video complaining of sexual harassment and poor conditions in Egypt.

Egyptian authorities deemed the comments illegal, and transferred the tourist to jail pending a criminal trial.

El-Mazboh was sentenced with 8 years in prison with hard labor, and ordered to pay a $600 fine, the Egyptian Independent reported.

The profanity-laced video, which has since been removed, included comments that Egypt was a “lowly, dirty country,” and “Egyptian men are pimps and women prostitutes,” Al Jazeera added.

She also called Egypt a “son of a b—- country,” and said she “hopes God sends (Egyptians) someone more oppressive than Sisi,” referring to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The court argued that El-Mazboh deliberately spread “false rumors” that would harm society, and attacked religion and the Egyptian government.

Mona El-Mazboh responds to controversy in a second video posted to her Facebook. (YouTube screenshot)
Mona El-Mazboh responds to controversy in a second video posted to her Facebook. (YouTube screenshot)

Her attorney argued that she suffered from neurological and psychological disorders, including depression, which impaired her ability to control anger.

El-Mazbouh’s attorney Emad Kamal said he would appeal the sentence.

“Of course, God willing, the verdict will change. With all due respect to the judiciary, this is a severe ruling,” Kamal told Al Jazeera. “It is in the context of the law, but the court was applying the maximum penalty.”

Shortly after the first video went viral, El-Mazboh posted a second video apologizing to “respectable Egyptians” for her comments.

Egyptian rights activists believe the arrest and sentence is an intense crackdown of Internet censorship.

Councilwoman apologizes after comparing violence in Nashville to Beirut

A politician in Tennessee issued an apology after she compared youth violence in Nashville to Beirut during a public city council meeting.

Nashville councilwoman Erica Gilmore said her comments were meant to address issues of youth violence in the Tennessee capital.

“My comment was not meant to disparage Lebanon or to imply any negativity regarding the wonderful people of Lebanon,” Gilmore said in a statement. “I have always held Lebanon and its citizens in high regard and even lived there during my study at the American University of Beirut.”

During a televised meeting, the councilwoman said youth poverty and violence has become a crisis, and the issues compare to the challenges facing an underdeveloped nation.

Gilmore apologized after comparing violence in Nashville to Beirut. (EricaGilmore.com)
Gilmore apologized after comparing violence in Nashville to Beirut. (EricaGilmore.com)

“People do not recognize there are kids out there that are in such poverty that we are like a third world country,” she said during the meeting. “I feel like I was in Beirut.”

RELATED: Tennessee politician compares violence in Nashville to Beirut

Gilmore responded to Lebanese Examiner’s story three days later with a statement posted to Facebook.

“I hope this situation can be turned into a positive for both cities of Nashville and Beirut. Both cities are beautiful and have great people that live there.” Gilmore added. “However, we can always do more to improve the lives and safety of our great cities.”

According to her online biography, Gilmore completed a study-abroad program at the American University of Beirut while studying at Howard University in Washington, D.C.\

READ FULL STATEMENT HERE:

Recently, I made a comment comparing the prevalence of violent crime in my hometown of Nashville to similar situations in Beirut Lebanon. My comments were based on U.S. State Department travel advisories to Lebanon and news reports regarding increasing violent crime rates in Beirut. My intention was only to create attention regarding issues of violence to my hometown so that we could begin to more proactively address this serious matter. My comment was not meant to disparage Lebanon or to imply any negativity regarding the wonderful people of Lebanon. I am sorry that some have mistakenly believed that my comment was intended to disparage Lebanon. I have always held Lebanon and its citizens in high regard and even lived there during my study at the American University of Beirut. I had a wonderful experience and was treated with kindness and respect by the Lebanese people. I will forever cherish my time in Beirut and the people that were so generous to me.

I hope that this situation can be turned into a positive for both cities of Nashville and Beirut. Both cities are beautiful and have great people that live there. However, we can always do more to improve the lives and safety of our great cities. I wish the people of Beirut all the best in their efforts to elevate the lives of its fine citizens, and I will continue every day trying to elevate the lives of Nashvillians the best that I can. May God bless our two great cities and our people.

Tennessee politician compares violence in Nashville to Beirut

A politician in Tennessee compared youth violence in Nashville to Beirut during a public city council meeting, according to CBS-affiliate WTVF-TV.

Nashville councilwoman Erica Gilmore said youth poverty and violence has become a crisis, and the issues compare to the challenges facing an underdeveloped nation.

UPDATED: Erica Gilmore issued an apology after Lebanese Examiner’s story about her comments.

“People do not recognize there are kids out there that are in such poverty that we are like a third world country,” Gilmore said. “I feel like I was in Beirut.”

According to her online biography, Gilmore completed a study-abroad program at the American University of Beirut while studying at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tennessee politician Erica Gilmore compared youth violence in Nashville to Beirut. (YouTube/Metro Nashville)
Tennessee politician Erica Gilmore compared youth violence in Nashville to Beirut. (YouTube/Metro Nashville)

In reported crime rates, Beirut ranks at 36.84 — a lower score than Nashville, which ranks at 49.11, according to two independent crime databases.

A study at the American University of Beirut found that disadvantaged Beirut neighborhoods, which have higher crime rates, are more likely to have problems with youth violence.

“Lebanon has a history of civil and cross-border war, which may influence the production of violence at the individual level,” the study said.

Gilmore pointed to a lack of respect among Nashville youth as a contributing factor to the violence. FOX-affiliate WZTV-TV reported that youth violence has been increasing in some Nashville neighborhoods.

“We’re seeing so much violence in the neighborhoods amongst the youth that I’m really concerned. The other day I was walking down Pearl Street and there were about 60 kids in the middle of the street. They were throwing bricks at one another. And I tried to get them to stop, and I could not get them to stop.”

Beirut airport security arrest man with $108k in counterfeit cash

A Romanian man was arrested Friday at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut after being found with counterfeit money and suspected stolen jewelry, officials announced.

Lebanese Internal Security Forces recovered $108,200 USD and 350 euros in counterfeit cash from the traveler, who was planning to fly to Romania from Beirut.

It is not clear why he was in Lebanon, officials added.

The 34-year-old man, identified only by the initials V.L., also had $50,000 worth of suspected stolen jewelry in his bag.

Security forces said the jewelry, mostly diamond, belonged to a woman who lost the items. Investigators returned the jewelry to the woman after the recovery.

Photos posted to the Lebanese Internal Security Forces Facebook page show several bags of money and the suspect’s Romanian passport.

Counterfeit money seized at the Beirut airport. (Lebanese Internal Security Forces)
Counterfeit money seized at the Beirut airport. (Lebanese Internal Security Forces)

Lebanese security officials are still investigating the case.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, an estimated $70 million in counterfeit bills are in global circulation.

U.S. officials said counterfeit money can be identified by holding the bill up to a light and looking for a holograph of the face image.

The bill should also reveal a thin vertical strip containing text that spells out the bill’s denomination.

Lebanese shipping pioneer Jacques Saadé dies at 81

Jacques Saadé, a pioneer in global shipping and transportation, has died at age 81, officials confirmed.

Saadé, who was born in Lebanon in 1937, was the founder of the France-based shipping company CMA CGM Group.

The entrepreneur immigrated to France near the start of the Lebanese Civil War, and started a maritime shipping operation with four employees and a single ship.

With only one container, Saadé started a maritime service between Marseilles and Beirut.

“He anticipated major developments in world trade and was convinced that the container would have a determining role in world maritime transport,” the company said in a news release.

CMA CGM Group grew quickly, as he developed links between North Europe, North Africa and Asia. Saadé opened an office in Shanghai in 1992 after recognizing the major shipping opportunities in China.

By 2006, the company was recognized as the third largest container shipping company in the world.

Jacques Saadé was the founder of CMA CGM Group. (CMA CGM Group)
Jacques Saadé was the founder of CMA CGM Group. (CMA CGM Group)

Saadé died in Marseilles on June 24.

“I learned with a great sadness the death of M Jacques Saadé, CMG CGM’s founder, family-owned company and french flagship,” said Edouard Philippe, the prime minister of France. “From China, where he was one of the first to foresee the incredible potential, tribute to this visionary entrepreneur.”

In a statement, the company said he was always attentive to strengthening the ties between France and Lebanon.

Saadé is the recipient of the Admiralitäts-Portugaleser, one of the highest decorations of the city of Hamburg. He also received Lebanon’s National Order of the Cedar.

The company is now run by his son, Rodolphe Saadé. CMA CGM Group has more than 30,000 employees worldwide, and a fleet of 494 vessels.

Read more about Jacques Saadé at this link.

Lebanese man stabbed to death during World Cup argument

A Lebanese man was killed Wednesday after an argument about a World Cup game turned heated inside a Beirut coffee shop.

Mohammad Zahar was fatally stabbed while celebrating Brazil’s win with a group of friends in the suburb of Hay El Sellom.

Zahar, a Brazil supporter, allegedly got into a heated argument with a Germany supporter inside the coffee shop.

The Germany supporter, identified only by his initials H.K., allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed Zahar.

The two were neighbors, media reports said.

Brazil supporters at the World Cup. (File photo)
Brazil supporters at the World Cup. (File photo)

Germany was knocked out of the World Cup after a 2-0 loss to South Korea. Brazil scored twice against Costa Rica.

Lebanese security officials have not released any information about the suspect.

Samir Geagea’s Instagram account hacked, ransom asked for its return

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s Instagram account was hacked Monday, according to a statement released by the party’s office.

According to An-Nahar, the unidentified hackers “asked for a ransom in exchange for the return of the account.”

The former militia leader’s Instagram account’s bio read, “This account has been hacked.” There was also a post of an unknown male with text that read, “Black hat: hacking in the real world.”

Courtesy of An-Nahar
Screenshot posted by An-Nahar.

This comes nearly a month after the Lebanese Forces were able to win 15 parliamentary seats, almost doubling the amount of their party members in parliament.

Samir Geagea most recently lashed out at President Aoun’s decree granting Lebanese citizenship to over 400 foreigners, most of whom are wealthy Syrians.

RELATED: Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and PSP call on Aoun to nullify citizenship decree

The Lebanese Forces said it reached out to Instagram and it appears the account has now been restored and the hackers post was removed.

Geagea’s Instagram account can be found at this link.

Female police officers in shorts cause a stir in Lebanon

A group of female police officers are causing a stir in a Lebanese town, and it’s not because of their profession.

In an attempt to attract more tourists, the town of Broumana changed its dress code to black shorts and a t-shirt — for its female officers only.

The mayor of Broumana Pierre Achkar said the change was meant to modernize outfits.

“Ninety-nine percent of the tourists in the Mediterranean region wear shorts,” Achkar told RT. “(We want to) change the bleak picture of Lebanon in the West, and to bring tourists from the West.”

The new dress code for female police officers in Broumana includes black shorts. (Facebook/Brummana)
The new dress code for female police officers in Broumana includes black shorts. (Facebook/Brummana)

A Twitter user compared the female officers’ uniforms to their male counterparts, and said that women should not be used as “tourist attractions.”

“It’s a great initiative to engage more women in municipalities,” the user wrote. “The only problem is that they’re clearly not in standard police uniforms but are being exploited (and) sexualized by their employers.”

Despite these arguments, one of the female officers said she doesn’t see an issue with the shorts, and hopes to come back next year.

“We have accepted it with enthusiasm and we still hope that it will return in every summer season,” Samata Saad told RT.

Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and PSP call on Aoun to nullify citizenship decree

The Lebanese Forces, Progressive Socialist Party, and Kataeb Party issued a joint statement urging Lebanese President Michel Aoun to nullify his controversial decree granting Lebanese citizenship to over 400 foreigners.

The decree grants Lebanese nationality to mostly wealthy Syrians, some of which are considered close to the Syrian regime, the Daily Star reports.

In the statement, the parties called on the President to “abrogate the decree” and later added that a reasonable decree would include special cases only.

lf kataeb psp

“(A reasonable decree) includes people with very special cases and have specific humanitarian conditions that are consistent with the Lebanese Constitution provisions and the criteria for granting the Lebanese citizenship,” the statement added.

Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel requested the Lebanese Interior Minister release “full text and names” so that “we can study it and give an opinion about it in order to take any legal or constitutional steps we need to.”

Lebanese Foreign Minister-elect Gebran Bassil defended the naturalization decree, saying the President and the foreign ministry are “not involved in any suspicious acts regarding the controversial naturalization decree,” wires reported.

Although Saad Hariri is a part of the March 14 alliance with the LF, PSP and Kataeb, he sided with Aoun and signed the controversial decree into law.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri warns Iran to stay out of Lebanon’s affairs

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has responded to an Iranian General’s comments about the most recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon and Iraq.

Video on Lebanese social media circulated of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite fighting Quds Force, praising Hezbollah’s electoral gains stating that “Lebanese elections turned Hezbollah into a resistance government.”

Soleimani added that these victories “came at a time when some Arab countries labeled it and its leaders as terrorists.”

Saad Hariri warns Iran Beirut paraliamentary elections future party

The Iranian-backed militia group Hezbollah and allies gained a total of 29 seats in the most recent Lebanese parliamentary elections.

RELATED: Lebanese Americans vote in parliamentary elections

Hariri told reporters on Monday the statements by the general are “regrettable” and added that interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs is “not in Iran’s interest, nor those of Lebanon or the region,” according to the Associated Press.

According to a UN-backed tribunal, five Hezbollah members were allegedly involved in the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri’s father. Hezbollah denies the allegations.

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