Syrian held for sex trafficking in Lebanon released on bail

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A Syrian national accused of operating one of the largest sex trafficking rings in Lebanon has been released on bail, a judicial source told AFP on Friday.

“The Mount Lebanon Criminal Court, headed by Judge Faisal Haidar, decided to release Imad Rihawi on bail for 20 million Lebanese pounds,” or just over $13,000, the source said.

The source specified that Rihawi was released on Thursday and that the charges against him were still being upheld.

For years, Rihawi had managed Chez Maurice and Silver, two of the most infamous brothels in Maameltein, a coastal town known as Lebanon’s red light district.

Prostitution is illegal in Lebanon, and police shuttered both locations in April 2016 in one of the most high-profile busts the country has seen.

At least 75 women - mostly Syrian - were freed.

People in Lebanon were shocked by the horrifying ordeal, as well as by accusations that police forces were complicit and that a gynaecologist had carried out at least 200 abortions on the trapped women.

At the time of the bust, security forces only identified Rihawi by his initials and said that he fled to Syria after his operation was broken up.

But he dramatically handed himself in to Lebanese security forces on live television in May 2016.

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