Lebanese singer held for telling president ‘go home’

BEIRUT — A Lebanese singer was detained on Wednesday for slandering the country’s head of state in a song posted on YouTube in which he urges President Michel Sleiman to “go home,” his attorney told AFP.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 27 Jul 2011, 10:36 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:13 AM

“General prosecutor Said Mirza ordered Zeid Hamdan detained for a song posted more than 18 months ago,” Nizar Saghieh said.

“This is shocking,” he added. “This case concerning the reputation of the president suddenly erupts while in the entire region you have heads of state being brought down and the people calling on them to leave.

“It is surreal in Lebanon to have this taking place.”

He said the prosecutor must now decide whether to file formal charges against his 35-year-old client. Slandering the president in Lebanon carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.

In the song, entitled “General Sleiman”, Hamdan’s group “Zeid and The Wings” describes the head of state as a “miracle man” and urges all “militiamen, corrupted politicians, weapons dealers, foreign intelligence and neighbour influence” to go home.

The reggae-style English language song ends with the following lyrics: “General Sleiman, you’re a miracle man for peace in the nation. General Sleiman you’re a miracle man. Gene, gene, general go home.”

Hamdan’s production company Eka3 issued a statement denouncing his detention as a bid to trample on freedom of expression in the country.

“It’s hilarious really,” a company official said, requesting anonymity. “Here you have all these revolutions going on in the Arab world and we have this in Lebanon.”

Last year, three people were detained in Lebanon for using the social networking website Facebook also to allegedly slander the president.

No charges were brought against them and they were released after 11 days.

By law, Lebanon’s general prosecutor must take action in any case of libel, slander or defamation against the president or any “sister state” regardless of whether a plaintiff comes forward to press charges.

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