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Central bank freezes accounts of US-sanctioned individuals

Lebanon's central bank said Thursday it has frozen the accounts of a foreign exchange trader and his sons, after they were sanctioned by the U.S. this week over links to Hezbollah.

The central bank "took a decision to freeze all the accounts" of Hassan Moukalled as well as those of his sons Rayyan and Rani and two businesses that he owns, it said in a statement.

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Freed port blast detainee arrives in US shortly after release

The director of the Security and Safety Dept. at Beirut’s port, who was released from detention Wednesday at State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat’s order, has arrived in the United States.

A dual American-Lebanese citizen, the director, Mohammed Ziad al-Ouf, was among 17 port case detainees freed on Wednesday in a move disputed by the lead investigative judge in the case Judge Tarek Bitar.

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'Not Hezbollah's candidate': Franjieh wants to be 'consensual' president

Marada leader chief Suleiman Franjieh met Thursday with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkerki.

"I'm not Hezbollah's candidate, I'm seeking to be a consensual candidate," Franjieh said.

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UK defense senior advisor conducts visit to Lebanon

The UK Defense Senior Advisor to the Middle East and North Africa (DSAME) Air Marshal Martin Sampson conducted a three-day visit to Lebanon from 23 to 25 January.

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Abdel Massih: Justice minister's bodyguards assaulted MPs

Chaos ensued Thursday inside the Justice Palace, after over a dozen legislators from reformist and traditional opposition parties met with caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury.

The heated meeting about the recent developments in the Beirut port probe led to scuffles with the minister’s guards who allegedly tried to snatch their phones as they filmed the meeting. Some of them say they were attacked, and have called for Khoury to resign.

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Oueidat denies Bitar removal on agenda of Higher Judicial Council

State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat has denied that the Higher Judicial Council would discuss removing Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar from his post in the meeting that it will hold on Thursday.

In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Oueidat also said that he does not rule out that Bitar might “commit a lot of legal violations in the coming days, including the issuance of an in-absentia arrest warrant” against him and other judges.

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Blast victims' relatives rally for embattled probe judge

Scores of protesters Thursday scuffled with riot police in Beirut as they tried to break into the Justice Palace.

Security was tight at the palace of justice in Beirut as activists and families of the port blast victims rallied in front of the Justice Palace ahead of a Higher Judicial Council to support the judge investigating the disaster.

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'Even if it costs me my life': Bitar wants justice before blast anniversary

Lead investigator into the Beirut port blast Judge Tarek Bitar has told The Associated Press that he will go on with the investigation, “even if it is going to cost me my life" and hopes that there will be an indictment ahead of the third anniversary of the blast this coming August.

“I have nothing against Judge Oueidat but there are some suspicions that came up. He should come and defend himself,” Bitar said. “I will continue with the case and I will not leave it unless they remove me completely."

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HRW, Amnesty Int'l call for UN fact-finding mission into port blast

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to "urgently pass a resolution to create an impartial fact-finding mission into the Beirut port explosion".

"It is patently clear that the Lebanese authorities are determined to obstruct justice," Amnesty's Aya Majzoub said in the joint statement, after Lebanon's top prosecutor in the politically charged case, Judge Ghassan Oueidat, charged Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar on Wednesday and summoned him for questioning on Thursday morning.

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Bassil warns against 'bypassing' Christians in presidential vote

Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil met with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Wednesday evening after which he warned against “bypassing the Christian component” in the presidential vote.

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