Beirut protesters are demanding the release of the bank heist detainees

Beirut protesters are demanding the release of the bank heist detainees

BEIRUT (AP) – Protesters clashed with Lebanese security forces Monday outside the Ministry of Justice in Beirut, demanding the release of two people arrested last week during a bank heist.

The fight came when a delegation from the International Monetary Fund held meetings in Beirut with officials over the economic crisis in the country and the limited steps taken by the government to pull Lebanon out of the worst economic crisis in its modern history. The crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement.

The IMF demands little from a staff-level agreement reached with the IMF in April that was implemented by the Lebanese government. There are five “key pillars” that should be implemented, including restructuring the financial sector, implementing fiscal reforms, the proposed restructuring of external public debt, anti-corruption and anti-laundering efforts of money.

The agreement also required that the 14 largest banks in the country be kept up as a standard for work on the restructuring of the sector since they control about 80% of the market. Smaller troubled banks should be taken over by larger lenders.

Anger has grown in recent weeks with local lenders who have imposed informal capital controls including limits on ATM withdrawals for nearly three years, with some depositors storming bank branches and taking their trapped savings. with force.

A protest on Monday outside the Ministry of Justice demanded the release of Abdul-Rahman Zakariya and Mohammed Rustom, who have been on the run since Wednesday after they broke into a bank branch and helped an arrested depositor take her savings to pay for her cancer treatment sister

They joined Sali Hafez, who used a toy pistol to claim $13,000 from her seized savings account. Hafez, who is in hiding, said she visited the bank several times to ask for her money and was told she would only receive $200 a month in Lebanese pounds.

On Friday depositors, including one armed with a hunting rifle, broke into at least five banks to claim their captured savings, the largest number of such incidents in one day. The banks, citing security concerns, closed all branches for three days starting Monday.

At one point on Monday, dozens of protesters tried to storm the Ministry of Justice before stopping after removing a metal gate. There is concern that if the two men are not released, protests could intensify.

In other parts of Beirut, protesters briefly closed several highways in protest against deteriorating living conditions, including almost non-existent state electricity, a crash in the Lebanese pound and rising poverty that reached three a quarter of the population since the economic crisis began in October 2019.

The Lebanese pound hit new lows, reaching 38,600 pounds to the US dollar on Monday.

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