Beirut (GPA) – The Lebanese government is officially accusing the Saudis of illegally detaining Saad Hariri.
Over the last several weeks, many questions have arisen concerning the current status of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The mystery surrounding Hariri all started about two weeks ago when the PM took a surprise trip to Riyadh. Once he arrived, following a meeting with high-level Saudi officials, he resigned on Saudi television saying he “feared for his life.”
From there the story only got more strange with Hariri seemingly disappearing, even leaving his own party in Lebanon unable to speak with him. Following these events, envoys from several western nations visited Hariri and refuse to comment on his current status.
Events hit a fever pitch earlier this week once Hariri did finally make a public appearance in Riyadh, speaking to a Lebanese reporter from an outlet owned by the ex-PM. The interview appears extremely strange with Hariri’s responses seeming unusual, as well as the presence of a man in the background that many speculate could be a Saudi handler tasked with keeping Hariri on message.
These developments have been increasingly disturbing, to say the least, now reaching a point where almost all segments of Lebanese society are questioning Saudi claims that Hariri is free to do as he pleases.
Obviously, the first condemnations of the Hariri resignation and questions about his freedom came from long-time Saudi nemesis, Hezbollah. Leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, spoke last week saying Hariri’s resignation was probably forced and to legally resign, he must do so in Lebanon.
But this time Hezbollah isn’t alone in their criticism of Saudi Arabia. Even Hariri’s own party, the Saudi aligned, Sunni, Future Movement party, even voiced their concern last week when Lebanese media reported the fact that they could not speak with Hariri and that they feel his movements are being restricted.
Now the third branch of Lebanon’s coalition government, represented by the Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun, has also weighed in with his first official statement denouncing Saudi Arabia. According to the Aoun, the time is up and Hariri needs to return, and there is “nothing justified” about his continued absence.
Aoun went on to say that the fact that there was no justification for Hariri’s 12-day absence has led the government to “consider him to be held and detained, in violation of the Vienna Convention and human rights law.”
Aoun also commented on the illegality of Hariri resigning abroad, saying that “No decision can be made on a resignation from abroad,” and that Hariri “should return to Lebanon to present his resignation or withdraw it, or to discuss the reasons for it and how to address them.”
“This affects the dignity of all Lebanese,” said Aoun and “Hariri and his family are restricted in freedom of movement and are under surveillance.”
Following the statements by Aoun, some members of Hariri’s party came out to say these assertions are untrue. Hariri also took to Twitter, responding to Aoun, saying “I want to repeat and affirm that I am perfectly fine and I will return, God willing, to dear Lebanon as I promised you, you’ll see.”
بدي كرر وأكد أنا بألف الف خير وانا راجع ان شاء الله على لبنان الحبيب مثل ما وعدتكم، وحا تشوفوا.
— Saad Hariri (@saadhariri) November 15, 2017
In comments during his recent interview, Hariri also stated that he would “die for Lebanon” despite leaving out of “fear for his life.” Hariri has said he would return to Lebanon in “two days,” two days ago, but there is still no official word of when he would arrive. However, even if he does return, it seems Hariri will be bringing the Saudi agenda with him, seeing as he’s already warned Lebanon that the nation will possibly face sanctions from the Gulf Arab states.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.