Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, who came out of the bank where six people were held hostage, was supported by many protesters. Beirutno Lebanon, this Thursday (11). He asked the Federal Bank to allow him to withdraw his savings from an account frozen by the Lebanese government following the financial crisis that has hit the country since 2019.
Hussain, 42, entered the bank armed and threatened to set himself on fire with a petrol can if he was not allowed to withdraw money. “[Ele] He did what he had to do,” the Lebanese’s wife Mariam Chehadi told reporters outside the bank branch.
Dina Abou Sour, a lawyer and activist representing Hussein’s family, explained that initially the Lebanese wanted to withdraw all his savings from the bank, about US$210,000. But after hours of negotiations, he accepted an offer from the firm, which handed over US$35,000 to his brother.
Lebanese relatives say the money was needed to pay his father’s medical expenses and other bills. “My brother is not a scoundrel. He is a decent man. He takes from his own pocket to give to others,” Hussain’s brother Atef said during the argument outside the bank.
Hussain was taken to the Directorate General of Police’s Information Intelligence Agency where, according to officials, the interior minister was waiting for him. Lebanese lawyer Rami Ollek said the police had promised to release Hussein.
“According to our experience, there is no trust. They will make excuses that it is too late to keep him. We are going to the police station to release him as they promised, or we will work,” Olek said.
As the situation changed, dozens of protesters gathered outside the bank. Many chanted slogans against the Lebanese government and banks, hoping to get the gunman’s money. Some spectators hailed him as a hero.
“Nobody will say he did anything wrong,” Ahmad Yatoum, close to the Federal Bank, told The Guardian. “Desperate people do desperate things. We were all like him, even the soldiers and riot police liked him.”
Since 2019, Lebanon has faced the worst economic crisis in its modern history. Three-quarters of the population lives in poverty, and the value of the Lebanese pound has fallen by more than 90 percent against the US dollar.
“What has led us to this situation is the state’s failure to address this financial crisis and the actions of the banks and the central bank, where people can only recover a portion of their own money like a weekly allowance,” Abu said. Sur, from the Depositors Union and one of the protesters. “It made people take matters into their own hands.”
Hussein received support from protesters gathered around a bank branch in Beirut – Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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