Satirist Ziad Itani Held on Charges of 'Collaborating with Israel'إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Prominent satirical actor and playwright Ziad Itani has been arrested on charges of “collaborating with the Israeli enemy,” Lebanon's State Security agency confirmed on Friday evening.
In a statement, State Security said Itani was arrested in a “special preemptive counter-espionage operation” after “several months of surveillance, follow-up and investigations inside and outside Lebanon.”
“During interrogation, and after being faced with proofs and evidence, he confessed to the charges and to the missions he was tasked to carry out in Lebanon,” State Security added.
It said the tasks involved “monitoring a number of senior political figures and deepening ties with their close assistants with the aim of obtaining from them the largest number of details pertaining to their lives and tasks with an emphasis on their movements.”
According to the statement, the Israelis also asked Itani to provide them with “extensive information about two prominent politicians, whose identities will be revealed in later statements.”
The detainee had also been tasked with “working on the formation of a Lebanese network that paves the way for advancing the principle of normalization with Israel and promoting Zionist thought among intellectuals” in addition to “submitting reports about the responses of all components of Lebanese society after the political developments of the past two weeks in the Lebanese arena.”
“The Directorate General of State Security is following up on the detainee's case under the supervision of the competent judicial authorities and further details will be disclosed to the Lebanese public opinion in due time,” State Security added.
Itani's brother, Riad, confirmed to An Nahar newspaper in a phone call that “Ziad has been detained since yesterday and is undergoing interrogation.”
“The family has not been able to contact him to know the reasons behind his arrest,” Riad added.
A security source meanwhile told al-Jadeed television that Itani has “confessed to contacting a female Israeli officer in Turkey who asked for information related to a plot to assassinate Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and ex-minister Abdul Rahim Mrad.”
“Itani confessed to receiving money transfers from the Israeli officer, who was supposed to meet him in Lebanon after entering the country using a foreign passport,” the source added.
Journalist Joseph Abu Fadel told MTV that the Israeli officer was supposed to stay at the al-Bustan Hotel in Beit Mery.
“Itani confessed to the charges and State Security chief Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba communicated with the president, the premier and a number of security chiefs to brief them on the details of this case,” Abu Fadel added.
The actor, writer and comedian has shot to prominence in recent years because of a series of comedy plays on Lebanese capital 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-based, pan-Arab al-Mayadeen television channel and with various regional newspapers.