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Lebanon arrests two policemen over abuse of militant prisoners

By Reuters - Jun 21,2015 - Last updated at Jun 21,2015

BEIRUT — Lebanon said on Sunday it has arrested two policemen after videos showing officers beating Islamist militants held in prison caused outrage in the country.

At least two short videos went viral on social media overnight. One shows a number of inmates crouching on the floor in Lebanon's largest prison, their hands tied behind their backs and facing a wall.

They were stripped shirtless. One of the policemen appears to be beating them with a rod. The backs of several inmates turned dark red.

Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said the incidents occurred two months ago when police raided Roumieh prison, in east Beirut, to end a riot that broke out at a building where militants are held.

He told a news conference called to address the videos that six policemen, from more than 500 who raided the prison, were involved. Two officers have already been referred to a military court while the others have yet to be identified, he said.

Machnouk said he would take all measures necessarily against those who committed the abuse, as well as their superiors.

"I think it is a big issue and should not be ignored," he said. "I will continue this until the end, I will not accept any assault on any prisoner."

"These are prisoners, some have committed terrorist crimes... but they do have rights guaranteed by law," he said.

Riots have broken out several times at the prison, mainly in buildings holding Islamist militants, including some with connections to Syria's Al Qaeda branch, Al Nusra Front.

 

Roumieh was built to hold 1,500 inmates but is now crammed with about 3,700. It holds many high profile convicts and government officials have previously warned that it is a hotbed for militancy.

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