By Najia Houssari
An award-winning film director was released without charge on Monday after he was arrested at Beirut airport and ordered to appear before a military court.
Ziad Doueiri, 53, was accused of illegally visiting Israel. Security officials at the airport confiscated his French and Lebanese passports when he arrived from France on Sunday.
The director is in Beirut for the premiere on Tuesday of his new movie “The Insult,” which goes on general release in Lebanon on Thursday.
He was ordered to appear before the court after pro-Hezbollah media accused him of visiting Israel in 2012 to shoot an earlier movie, “The Attack.” Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and its citizens are not permitted to travel there.
Military prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr told Arab News: “After interrogating him, I saw that he has no connections with Israel and Doueiri’s movie serves the Palestinian cause. He was released after being granted a residence permit, and the case was dismissed.”
The prosecutor pointed out that, in any case, the visit took place in 2012, and any offense would have expired after five years under the statute of limitations.
Outside the court, Doueiri said his mother “breastfed me the Palestinian cause.
Members of my family were killed while fighting with the Palestinians against Israel, so I cannot be accused of dealing with the Israeli enemy.
“The movie ‘The Insult’ that will be released this week in Beirut has met legal standards. It is powerful and delivers a strong message. Maybe some people in Lebanon did not like its message. Let the Lebanese society watch it and decide.”
Doueiri’s lawyer said: “My client was released without charge. All the media hassle was just a storm in a tea cup. We have full trust in Judge Saqr.”
“The Insult” represented Lebanon at the Venice Film Festival, where one of its stars, the Palestinian actor Kamel El-Basha, was awarded the Volpi Cup for best actor. The movie has also been selected by the Ministry of Culture to represent Lebanon at the next Academy Awards.
Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury tweeted: “Ziad Doueiri is a great Lebanese director who has been honored around the world. Respecting and honoring him is a must.”
The Lebanese Forces party condemned the “vicious campaign against Lebanese-French director Ziad Doueiri that accused him of dealing with the enemy; this campaign aims to restrict political and cultural freedoms in Lebanon.
“The resentful campaign aims to attack the movie that objectively depicts what really happened during the Lebanese war.”
The party said Doueiri was “not an agent and his name is an added value for Lebanon, however, some of those who are still living in the 60s and 70s of the last century cannot and should not assess people and attack them.”
The earlier movie, “The Attack,” is about an Israeli surgeon of Arab origin whose wife is the perpetrator of a suicide attack in Tel Aviv. The story was adapted from a novel by Yasmina Khadra, which sold more than 550,000 copies and was translated into 40 languages.
The film caused a stir at the time of its release because the Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League, had asked for it to be banned.
Doueri is best known for his 1998 movie “West Beirut,” which won the Prix Francois Chalais at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.
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