Duo accused of stealing from 10+ churches in Mount Lebanon

The Lebanese Internal Security Forces have arrested two men in connection with multiple robberies of churches in Mount Lebanon.

Two suspects, identified only by their initials T.S. and H.S., were arrested Wednesday in Burj Hammoud, officials announced. They were born in 1990.

The duo allegedly confessed to taking money from church collection boxes to fund their suspected drug addictions, officials said.

Two men are accused of stealing from more than 10 churches in Mount Lebanon. (Lebanese Internal Security Forces)
Two men are accused of stealing from more than 10 churches in Mount Lebanon. (Lebanese Internal Security Forces)

Security forces believe money was stolen from churches in the following areas:

  • Jbeil
  • Chawieh
  • Bolonia
  • Ballouneh
  • Ain El Delbi
  • Jiyeh
  • Lehfed
  • Mastita
  • Bchalle
  • Zouq El Kharab

Officials added that marijuana and heroin were recovered from their vehicle.

“In response to the thefts, the Internal Security Forces Information Division initiated procedures to identify and arrest the two gang members,” a statement said.

The duo have a criminal history that includes theft and drug abuse.

Hariri to attend FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Moscow

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri will make an official visit to Russia to attend the opening ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup, Russia’s press service reported.

Hariri will reportedly visit Moscow from June 12 to June 14 and stay near the Luzhniki Stadium, where the World Cup will be held.

George Shaaban, Hariri’s advisor for Russian affairs, told news agencies he is setting up meetings with Russian leaders.

Russian president Vladimir Putin holding the FIFA World Cup Trophy at a pre-tournament ceremony in Moscow, September 2017. (Administration of the President of Russia)
Russian president Vladimir Putin holding the FIFA World Cup Trophy at a pre-tournament ceremony in Moscow, September 2017. (Administration of the President of Russia)

Hariri is planning to meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit, Shaaban said.

The tournament’s opening ceremony begins June 14, and will be followed by the first match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon has taken part in World Cup qualifiers since 1994 but has yet to appear in the finals.

The visit is Hariri’s tenth visit to Moscow. His last visit was in September 2017, Russia’s press service added.

RELATED: Report: Tele Liban to broadcast the World Cup in Lebanon for free

Lebanese tourist arrested for ‘insulting Egypt’ on Facebook

A Lebanese tourist visiting Cairo was arrested Thursday after posting an outspoken video on Facebook where she criticized Egypt and its president.

Mona El-Mazboh complained of sexual harassment and poor conditions in the viral video, which was deemed illegal by Egyptian government officials.

El-Mazboh was referred to criminal trial, and was ordered to be detained for 15 days, Reuters reported.

In the video, the Lebanese citizen specifically mentions an incident involving sexual harassment by taxi drivers and young men in the street, and complained of poor restaurant service during Ramadan.

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)

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.

After learning of the potential punishment, El-Mazboh posted a second video apologizing to “respectable Egyptians” for her comments. The video was posted to YouTube.

Her Facebook page could not be independently located or verified.

In a statement, the public prosecutor said El-Mazboh was charged with “deliberately spreading false rumours that are harmful to society and infringe upon religions,” Reuters added.

Egyptian rights activists claim the arrest was an intense crackdown of Internet censorship.

Officials: 15 tons of marijuana seized at Beirut paint warehouse

The Lebanese Internal Security Forces busted a large marijuana smuggling operation at a warehouse in south Beirut, officials announced.

During a raid Friday, security officials located several plastic paint buckets containing 15 tons of concealed marijuana.

Photos show the marijuana blocks recovered from a warehouse in Ouzai. (Photo provided/Internal Security Forces)
Photos show the marijuana blocks recovered from a warehouse in Ouzai. (Photo provided/Internal Security Forces)

The raid was conducted at a paint warehouse in Ouzai, a southern district of Beirut.

In photos released by security forces, the marijuana appeared to be masked in brown and white blocks.

The buckets were set to be exported outside of the country, officials announced.

More than 15 tons of marijuana were recovered. (Photo provided/Internal Security Forces)
More than 15 tons of marijuana were recovered. (Photo provided/Internal Security Forces)

Several suspected “gang members” were arrested, but officials did not reveal their identities or ages.

Security forces are still investigating, and will forward their findings to prosecutors for review.

This is not the first time the Internal Security Forces have raided a marijuana smuggling operation. The national police force of Lebanon frequently posts photos of their drug investigations on Facebook.

LAU to study ‘potential medical value’ of marijuana in Lebanon

The Lebanese American University is set to launch an independent research center dedicated to studying the health effects and potential economic gains of medical marijuana in Lebanon.

LAU announced plans to establish the Medicinal Cannabis Research Center, which is poised to become the first research project of its kind in the Middle East.

Research will include studies of the potential therapeutic applications of cannabis and Lebanon’s climatic and economic value, the university announced.

“We are awaiting the creation of a legal framework within which we can proceed, with the full support of the Ministry of Public Health,” said Mohammad Mroueh, an LAU pharmacy professor, who is spearheading the project.

Professor Mohammad Mroueh discusses the medical potential of marijuana. (LAU photo)
Professor Mohammad Mroueh discusses the medical potential of marijuana. (LAU photo)

In a statement, the university said growing conditions in Lebanon have not been fully studied or characterized, and an assessment of its medical benefits can be an untapped opportunity for the country.

Opportunities can include economic gains, reduced unemployment and a reversal of the brain drain, the university added.

LAU President Joseph Jabbra acknowledged the potential controversy of studying marijuana, however considers this research a chance to “break the social stigma surrounding the issue.”

In other parts of the world, cannabis compounds THC and CBD have been used to treat chronic and neuropathic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and other issues.

Lebanese-Canadian businessman runs for legislative assembly in Canada

A Lebanese-Canadian businessman is running to become a member of the legislative assembly in Canada.

Fadi Nemr, a small business owner and Lebanese immigrant, clinched the nomination for the Progressive Conservative Party in the Ottawa-Vanier electoral district.

According to his website, Nemr immigrated to Canada after receiving a master’s degree in chemistry in Lebanon.

Twitter/@FadiNemr
Twitter/@FadiNemr

He moved to the Ottawa-Vanier district — home to one of the most ethnically diverse parts of Ottawa — and opened a small business in three years.

“Fadi is a husband, a father, and an active member of the Lebanese community. He loves Ottawa-Vanier and has called it home for over 25 years,” said Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. “As a small business owner in Ottawa-Vanier, Fadi knows first-hand how reckless Liberal policies have hurt small businesses throughout the province.”

Nemr raised private funds to sponsor refugees and help them integrate into Canadian society with jobs and education, according to his website.

Nemr faces a crowded list of contenders, including the Liberal incumbent Nathalie Des Rosiers.

Police: Baalbeck man kills wife after finding her having sex with two men

A Syrian national is accused of murdering his wife in Baalbeck after he allegedly caught her having sex with two men, according to Lebanese Internal Security Forces.

The 33-year-old man, identified only by his initials M.H., allegedly stabbed and strangled his wife after discovering the trio having sex inside their home.

The two men assisted the husband in burying her body in the Baalbeck town of Boudai, security forces added.

“It turns out that out of fear of being killed, they helped him dig a hole and place the body in it,” a statement said.

The husband and one of the men, 29, are in custody.

Security forces are searching for the third suspect.

Smugglers attempt to sneak ‘extremely rare’ monkeys into Lebanon

A pair of ‘extremely rare’ monkeys were recovered from smugglers at the Beirut airport, officials announced.

Lebanese authorities rescued the rare white-throated guenons and sent them to Monkey World, a rescue facility and monkey sanctuary in England.

The monkeys, named Benny and Nia, were smuggled into Lebanon through a passenger flight from Ghana, officials said.

Lebanese officials worked with the Animals Lebanon welfare group and Middle East Airlines to safely transport the animals to Monkey World in England.

“As tragic as their story is, Benny  and Nia are the lucky ones that have survived and made it to a safe home,” said Dr. Alison Cronin, director of Monkey World. “Most die during the hunt or when they are torn away from their families and forest homes to be smuggled across the globe.”

Lebanon is part of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, and has worked to crack down on illegal wildlife trade since May 2013.

White-throated guenons are known to live on trees of rainforests or tropical areas in areas of Nigeria and Benin.

Monkeys part of black market trade are often used for the illegal pet trade or entertainment industry. Adult monkeys are often shot and eaten as bushmeat.

“We cannot give them their natural lives back again, but I am pleased to see that they are enjoying their new home and enclosure,” Cronin added. “Their sad story will hopefully remind people about how important it is to protect endangered species and the habitats which they come from.”

Convicted Lebanese cancer doctor Farid Fata seeks new trial

Convicted Lebanese cancer doctor Farid Fata claims he was pressured into pleading guilty to misdiagnosing people with cancer, new court documents show.

Fata was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2014 for prescribing chemotherapy to patients who were perfectly healthy or whose conditions did not require the treatment.

The disgraced doctor is now asking a federal judge to throw out his 2014 conviction and grant him a new trial.

Fata claims his attorney convinced him to plead guilty for a possible lesser sentence. He alleges his attorney said he could get 20 years as opposed to life in prison if he entered the guilty plea.

“(My attorney) enforced the idea of pleading guilty by leading me to believe that I would receive leniency by entering guilty pleas,” Fata wrote. “From day one to the present, I have steadfastly maintained my innocence. And I maintain that I only agreed to plead guilty in this case due to (my attorney’s) false promises and misadvice.”

COURT DOCUMENTS: Fata seeks new trial

The new documents come four years after Fata stood before the court and sobbed in response to the sentencing.

“I stand before you ashamed of my actions. It all went wrong,” Fata said in court.” I cannot bring back the past.”

RELATED: Lebanese-American doctor Fata sentenced to 45 years in prison

Former patients referred to him as a ‘cowardly bastard’ as he sat expressionless for days watching victims take the stand during sentencing.

RELATED: Agent: Farid Fata planned to buy $3M castle in Adma, Lebanon

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not yet filed a response to Fata’s request.

Descendant of Lebanese, Korean immigrants runs for Congress

Dan Koh, the descendant of Lebanese and Korean immigrants, is running to represent Massachusetts in Congress.

The 32-year-old is the former chief of staff of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. He announced his campaign in October with a dramatic launch video.

Koh, a Democrat, is already gaining traction, but faces a crowded primary field to succeed retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas in the state’s 3rd congressional district.

According to a March profile in Boston Magazine, Koh’s mother’s grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to Lawrence, Massachusetts in the 1890s. His great-grandfather patented an invention for improving mill efficiency.

His Lebanese mother, Dr. Claudia Arrigg, helps run the Arrigg Eye & Ear Associates offices, which his grandfather founded.

Koh’s father, Dr. Howard Koh, is the former United States Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.

Dan Koh is running for Congress in Massachusetts. (Campaign photo)
Dan Koh is running for Congress in Massachusetts. (Campaign photo)

According to his campaign website, Koh wants to bring a “new generation of leadership” to Congress, where he says he will make healthcare, the economy and education among his top priority issues.

Koh has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he met his wife Amy. Before working in Boston government, he was the former chief of staff to Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post.

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