BEIRUT: A Lebanese activist who was filmed attacking the country’s energy minister in Beirut has handed himself over to police.
A video of renowned protester Elie Haykal went viral on Sunday, causing social media uproar. The clip shows Haykal provoking and pushing minister Walid Fayyad outside a diner in the Lebanese capital.
Haykal, who is affiliated with the Christian political party Lebanese Forces, shoved Fayyad, a close ally of the Free Patriotic Movement party of President Michel Aoun.
The video garnered some support from social media users, but was mostly met with criticism, especially because Fayyad is believed to be one of the only politicians in Lebanon who travels without bodyguards or any security entourage.
Following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Lebanon’s information minister Ziad Al-Makary said fellow ministers condemned the assault and demanded legal action against the perpetrator.
“My client surrendered himself today,” Haykal’s lawyer Ralph Tannous told Arab News on Tuesday evening. “He surrendered himself to Zouk Mosbeh police station and will be transferred to Achrafieh police station for interrogation since the minister has complained in his personal capacity,” the lawyer added.
Tannous told Arab News that his client was subpoenaed on Monday but did not receive a notice because he was away from home.
When asked about the nature of the crime, Tannous said that his client, if charged, will be tried before the misdemeanours court, but added that he had not ruled out the possibility of obtaining a waiver from the minister, with whom they are trying to contact.
In the 34-second video, the energy minister is seen chatting with demonstrators outside the restaurant before Haykal, who was behind Fayyad, grabbed his right shoulder, turned him around and then addressed him.
He said: “Today I have to deliver to you a message from all the Lebanese people. I want to deliver to you a clear message, so that you wake up and understand.”
He then shoved Fayyad, who stumbled backwards on to a metal partition.
A Twitter user criticized Haykal’s actions, posting: “The minister of energy has annoyed me with his behavior, and I disagree with his performance, but hitting him in that way is completely unacceptable.”
Another user described Haykal as “debauched and uneducated” but added that she had no confidence that Fayyad could solve Lebanon’s power crisis.
“Violence will not solve the electricity crisis or any of our crises. I am frustrated like the rest, but I personally cannot condone what happened,” another tweet said.