Lebanon drops jail term for journalist
BEIRUT - A Lebanese military court on Tuesday dropped its six-month prison sentence against a journalist accused of criticising the army, the tribunal and reporter said.
Hanin Ghaddar, a writer known for her criticism of the powerful Hezbollah movement, was sentenced in absentia on January 10 for "defaming the Lebanese army".
During a conference in Washington in 2014, Ghaddar alleged that Lebanon's Sunni Muslims were "being clamped down by Hezbollah and the Lebanese army".
On Tuesday, the same court recanted its decision after an appeal by Ghaddar's lawyer, saying it "did not have jurisdiction" over her because she is a reporter.
But the accusation of defamation still stands, with the military tribunal saying it would transfer the file to Lebanon's publications court.
Ghaddar on Tuesday confirmed that the six month sentence had been cancelled but said the case "hasn't been dropped".
"This is not only a personal victory, it's a victory for free press," she said.
The military courts in Lebanon have a very broad jurisdiction over civilians.
Rights groups have voiced concern that could be used as a tool for intimidation against free speech and activism.
"In no case should authorities detain people for peaceful criticism," Human Rights Watch warned in January.
Hezbollah, a Shiite organisation backed by Iran, is represented in Lebanon's government. Its armed units are often considered more powerful than the Lebanese army.