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This photo shows a Graffiti of a slogan that says "No to Increasing Taxes." (HO)
BEIRUT: The first criminal judge in Beirut Wednesday suspended summons against members of "For the Republic," including lawyers Marwan Maalouf and Fouad Debs.
The two lawyers, along with journalist Marie-Jose Kazzi, and two other activists (Mathieu Torbey, and Sintia Sleiman) were apprehended after spraying graffiti on cement blocks.
Maalouf told Annahar that the criminal proceedings began after their arrest in Rawshe, Beirut, on February 2, 2016, and taken in for investigation. The case was then referred to Beirut's first criminal Judge before he "issued the ruling today."
The defendants were being sought on charges of contempt and slander, yet the Judge maintained in his ruling that "statements expressed constitute free speech and are protected by Lebanon's Constitution," adding that they exercised this right using peaceful methods to protest daily life injustices.
"Although the term ‘you steal’ was revealed explicitly, directly and harshly to a certain extent, it was the result of the prevailing economic and social situation in the country, and it was highlighted by the defendants, who belong to a civil society group, including lawyers and journalists concerned with the daily realities."
"They are social activists," the ruling noted.
The ruling added that "these statements did not intend to impose any type of damage to the cement blocks."
"Let this be a message to public prosecutors: Freedom of expression is a red line!" Maalouf mentioned.
This ruling not only protects the idea that graffiti is a way of peaceful expression, but it also considers that the word "stealing" is not considered defamation.
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