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Lebanon: arrest of standup comedian Nour Hajjar sparks fears despite release

Beirut already undergoing economic and political paralysis, was struck this week by arrest of a standup comic who joked about Lebanon's army and offended religious figures five years ago.
Nour Hajjar

BEIRUT — Lebanese standup comedian Nour Hajjar was released on Tuesday evening after less than 24 hours in jail over a joke he made five years ago that that offended the religious establishment.

Lebanon's top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat had ordered Hajjar's arrest on Tuesday and released him that evening on the condition he keep the court informed of his whereabouts.

The controversy started on Friday, when Hajjar was summoned by the military police who questioned him for 11 hours over a video of him telling a joke about the Lebanese army, his lawyer told local news outlets.

On Tuesday morning, Hajjar returned to the military police headquarters in Baabda, near Beirut, to sign a bail bond. However, he was unexpectedly transferred to the Palace of Justice without the presence of his lawyer. There, Judge Ghassan Oueidat ordered Hajjar’s arrest after questioning him over a lawsuit filed against him by Dar al-Fatwa — Lebanon's Muslim Sunni authority — with regard to another five-year-old video in which Hajjar makes fun of his mother’s actions during a Muslim funeral.

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