Hezbollah in UAE push for release of Lebanese detainees

A top Hezbollah official arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 19 in an attempt to persuade the authorities to release Lebanese detainees, Reuters reported.

Hezbollah’s liaison and coordination unit chief, Wafiq Safa’s visit marks the first time that a representative of the militant group has been in the Gulf State. 

Over recent months and years the UAE, a US ally, has banged up Lebanese nationals accused of having ties to Hezbollah, who have 13 members in the Lebanese Parliament, or other Iranian proxies amid clashes between the group and Israel as well as Israel’s war on Gaza since October. 

Virtually all who stand accused have denied the charges of ties to Iran-backed groups. 

Between 100,000 and 150,000 Lebanese nationals live in the country as well as approximately 450,000 Iranians. 

It is understood that Mr Safa is trying to achieve the release of six Lebanese citizens prior to the end of Ramadan, which started on March 10 and will end on April 8. 

Abu Fadel Shoman, a spokesperson for the families of detained Lebanese in the country, also urged the Hezbollah official to secure the release of the remains of Lebanese national Ghazi Ezzeldine’s body. 

The death of Ezzeldin in May 2023 whilst in detention sparked outrage from rights groups, notably Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. 

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The Geneva-based human rights group said shortly after his death, “The circumstances surrounding the death of a Lebanese man who was being held in the United Arab Emirates must be fully disclosed, and an independent transparent investigation must be launched immediately. 

“We also urge the UAE authorities to release all individuals arbitrarily detained in their prisons and to respect their rights to freedom of expression and movement.” 

Regarding the release of the six Lebanese nationals, Shoman noted, “We knew that there were efforts occurring in the background for the detainees. The folder is not in the hands of the state, it started with Abbas Ibrahim (ex-Lebanese General Security head) and (Hezbollah) is completing these efforts.” 

In 2021, Mr Ibrahim, who was head of the General Security at the time, negotiated an agreement with the UAE to return some dozen detainees to Lebanon. 

A family member of Ezzeldine noted that the family’s requests to enlist the Lebanese Foreign Ministry’s assistance to repatriate his remains have been somewhat neglected, however they are clinging on to hope that progress will be made over the coming days. 

The relative in question argues that the reluctance of the Emirati authorities to give back the body is due to the fact that they may be complicit in his death. They added that they would perform an autopsy should they ever acquire the remains.

Reuters 

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