Mashnouq Says Itani Innocent as al-Hajj Questioned over 'Fabricating' Case

Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced Friday that detained comedian Ziad Itani is “innocent,” as reports said a former Internal Security Forces officer is being interrogated over “fabricating” the case of spying for Israel.

“All Lebanese apologize to Ziad Itani. Innocence is not enough. Pride in him and his patriotism is the only firm truth,” Mashnouq tweeted, slamming those who allegedly framed Itani as “spiteful, foolish and sectarian.”

He also described Itani as an “honorable” man who “has never abandoned his Arab and Beiruti identity for a single day.”

TV networks meanwhile reported that the ISF Intelligence Branch is interrogating Lt. Col. Suzanne al-Hajj over “fabricating the case against Ziad Itani.”

Al-Hajj had been fired in 2017 over liking a tweet posted by controversial director Charbel Khalil. Khalil’s tweet was deemed insulting to Saudi women.

Itani had posted a screenshot of al-Hajj’s like.

According to MTV, al-Hajj hired a hacker who “created fake accounts to fabricate the case against Ziad Itani.”

“Investigations will intensify and will target all those involved,” the TV network added.

Investigative Judge Peter Germanos had in November 2017 charged Itani with collaboration with Israel and the possession of narcotics.

The State Security agency had arrested Itani the same month on charges of collaborating with Israel and gathering information on political figures.

Itani was detained "after several months of monitoring, follow-up and investigations within and outside" Lebanon, State Security said in a statement at the time.

It said Itani confessed to having been "tasked to monitor a group of high-level political figures" and their associates.

Itani had shot to prominence in recent years because of a series of comedy plays on Beirut, its customs and the transformations it has undergone in recent decades.

The works -- particularly "Beirut Tariq al-Jdideh", which refers to a majority-Sunni neighborhood of the city -- have been very well-received.

Before becoming an actor, Itani worked as a reporter with Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television channel and with various regional newspapers.

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