Student demonstrations jolted Beirut for a third day within a week Thursday as hundreds of Lebanese Forces activists took to the streets to demand the release of their jailed leader Samir Geagea and call off an 8-year-old government ban on the LF.
The protestors set out from university campuses in Beirut, Byblos and Kesrouan in flag-bedecked bus convoys that converged on vocational center of Beirut’s middle class resident neighborhood of Dikwaneh. They brandished Geagea’s portraits, demanding his release from prison at the defense ministry in Yarze, where he spent the last eight years in solitary confinement. They also demanded a reversal of the government decree that outlawed the LF in 1994.
Army troops and riot police escorted the unlicensed demonstrations in jeeps and on foot, avoiding friction with the protestors in the same spirit that prevailed in the previous demonstrations of Wednesday and last week.
On Wednesday, hundreds of St. Joseph University students paraded the streets of Beirut in support of USJ President Father Selim Abou’s dramatic denunciation of Syria’s hegemony, warning of the accelerating pace of ‘syrianizing’ Lebanon.
The USJ protestors also denounced the prison sentences given by a Beirut military court the day before to Geagea’s one-time political advisor Toufic Hindi and journalists Habib Younis and Antoine Bassil.
“We are not an opposition any longer,” said a statement released by the USJ demonstrators as they converged on U.N. House in downtown Beirut. “From now onwards we are all resistance.”
The army command, meanwhile, lashed out at Father Abou for accusing the Lebanese army of becoming subservient to the Syrian army.
“The command is bewildered that such an inflammatory agitation against the army should come from the rector of so prestigious an academic institution,” the military statement said.