Lebanese President Michel Aoun protected the now Minister of Interior Mohamed Fahmi after he killed two men during the Lebanese Civil War, the minister said in a TV interview shared online this week.
The footage raises further questions over the ties between the supposedly technocratic government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, brought to power after months of anti-government protests that called for a change of system, and the pre-existing political elite dominated by figures including Aoun.
#Lebanon 's minister of interior admits he killed two people but was protected from a powerful militia by the then army chief president Michele Aoun- this came as he sought to explain the "spiritual" relation between them #chosenbymerit #LebanonProtests #لبنان__ينتفض pic.twitter.com/euSMN8Sm2b— Maha Yahya (@mahamyahya) June 27, 2020
Fahmi told an anecdote of how Aoun stood up for him in 1981, which was during Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990), when describing the “spiritual relationship” between the two men.
“I killed two people, and there was a clash with this party. And even though the party was really strong. [Aoun] called for me to come to his office,” recounted Fahmi in a television interview shared by Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East thinktank.
“[Aoun] said, ‘listen Mohammed, as long as I am breathing no one will even poke you with a fork.’ This is Michel Aoun,” he explained.
In 1981, Aoun was a brigadier-general in charge of the eight battalion of the Lebanese army. He later rose to lead the entire army in 1984, before fleeing the current after losing his “war of liberation” against the Syrian army at the end of the war (1989-1990).
He eventually returned to Lebanon in 2005, after Syrian troops withdrew from the country, entering politics with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) led by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil. Aoun became president of Lebanon in 2016, ten years after the FPM signed a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah that formed the bedrock of the “March 8” political movement.
Watch: “I'm worried that we will see a lost decade for #Lebanon," says former financial adviser to the Lebanese government Henri Chaoul, who claims the government has "no genuine will" to make reforms necessary for #IMF aid.https://t.co/HeqEH0LKTe pic.twitter.com/85SYYYVXyv— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) June 28, 2020
New government, old elite?
Widespread protests broke out across Lebanon in October, 2019, calling for the fall of the entire political order, including both the “March 8” alliance and the rival “March 14” bloc.
While the protests led to a new government under Diab in January, the government has been accused of being a front for the old political elite, especially Hezbollah and the FPM.
Fahmi, as interior ministry, was reportedly one of Hezbollah’s candidates.
“There are rumors circulating that the security adviser of Bashar al Assad asked Hezbollah to push for his name as interior minister,” said Nadim El Kak, a researcher at the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, at the time of his appointment in January.
Fahmi has also been criticized for his previous role as a security and safety adviser to the board of directors of Blom Bank, at a time when Lebanese banks have come under fire for failing to allow people to access their deposits.