A dozen Lebanese detained in the United Arab Emirates have been released less than a month after the death of one of their compatriots in prison, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said Saturday in a statement.
The Lebanese were arrested in March in the UAE for alleged links to the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement, considered "terrorist" by Gulf countries, according to Afif Shoman, spokesman for the families of Lebanese detained in the Emirates. "They have been released but remain in the UAE," he said. In a statement, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry reported "the release of the ten Lebanese detainees arrested in the United Arab Emirates about two months ago," according to the statement.
One of those arrested in March, Ghazi Ezzedine, died in custody in early May, prompting a wave of convictions from human rights groups. The others "were released following the backlash and media campaign that followed the death" of Ezzedine, according to Afif Shoman. Ghazi Ezzedine, in his fifties, was arrested on 22 March, Amnesty International's Sima Watling told AFP recently, saying the Lebanese were arrested in March without charge.
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He died on May 4 but, according to Sima Watling, authorities did not notify the family until five days after the death when they asked her son to come and identify him. "It appears that the UAE authorities are trying to conceal the real cause of death and cover up the case," she added. According to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, Ezzeddine was buried in Dubai at the request of his family. UAE authorities have not issued a statement on the death.
Lebanese living in the Gulf monarchies have sometimes found themselves at the heart of regional tensions and the standoff between Sunni monarchies and Shiite Iran, which supports Hezbollah. In May 2019, Amnesty reported prison sentences for three Lebanese accused in the UAE of forming a "terrorist cell" and "planning attacks" on Hezbollah's orders. In February 2021, a dozen Lebanese detained in the UAE were released thanks to mediation led by Lebanon.