Lebanon minister vows to punish guards after beating video

AP News
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Posted: Jun 21, 2015 12:06 PM

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese minister vowed Sunday to bring to justice guards seen in online video clips beating Islamists detained in a notorious prison where imprisoned militants were once suspected of directing terror attacks.

Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk told journalists that two guards whose faces are seen in the clips have been arrested and referred to military prosecutors.

"I condemn these violations and will not cease to pursue the case for one second," he said.

The clips show a room full of detainees stripped down to their underwear. In one clip, a guard beats a detainee on his back with what looks like a green hose. He yells "keep quiet" at the screaming detainee.

Another clip shows a second guard taunting and insulting a bearded detainee while hitting him. The detainee begs for mercy and later a voice, presumably of another guard, is heard ordering the inmate to kiss the man beating him. He is kicked in the face when he attempts it.

The detainees shown, held in the Roumieh prison on the outskirts of Beirut, were handcuffed behind their back while squatting on a flooded floor.

Mashnouk blamed past governments for the poor conditions at the prison, though he said: "I am responsible for the human rights of all prisoners, regardless of their (ideological) persuasion."

"I have inherited that prison, these conditions and those prisoners," he said.

Mashnouk in January ordered the clearing of Roumieh's Block B after years of warnings that the overcrowded section served as a meeting point for militants to plot attacks and strengthen their networks. Prisoners in that block were known to call into Lebanese television talk shows using smuggled mobile phones.

Mashnouk said at the time that "a big part" of twin suicide bombings in the northern city of Tripoli in January was directed from Block B. The bombing, which targeted a district predominantly inhabited by followers of the Shiite Alawite sect, was claimed by al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front. Mashnouk, however, blamed the attack on the extremist Islamic State group.