Last week, a Lebanese military tribunal sentenced a journalist named Hanin Ghaddar—currently a fellow at a U.S. think tank—to six months in prison for the crime of “defaming the army.” The trial was held in absentia and closed to the public. Although a Lebanese national, Ghaddar (along with her son) is now effectively unable to return to Lebanon to see her family. Elliott Abrams explains why this case should be a cause of concern for the U.S.:
Americans should realize something about [the Lebanese army’s] kangaroo court: we are paying for it! [The U.S.] has given the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) over a billion dollars in military aid, including $123 million in 2017, and Lebanon is the fifth largest recipient of foreign military financing. Our ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, said publicly on October 31 that support for the LAF from State Department and Defense Department accounts totaled $160 million over the previous year.
Whatever we think we are supporting with that aid, surely we do not wish to help pay for a system of military courts that suppress freedom of speech and seek to punish someone for speaking in Washington. It’s worth adding that what Ghaddar said that elicited these attacks on her was the simple truth . . . “that the Lebanese military targets Sunni [terrorist] groups while showing preference to Shiite groups, such as Hizballah.”
When Congress next takes up military aid for Lebanon, this effort to suppress free speech—and to make telling the truth about Hizballah’s role in Lebanon illegal—should be item number one.