Pompeo: One fewer Hezbollah judge is always a good thing

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday welcomed the recent resignation of the Lebanese judge that ordered a ban on media appearances for the US ambassador to Lebanon after she criticized Hezbollah.

“As for this judge no longer being the judge, one fewer Hezbollah judge is always a good thing,” Pompeo told reporters during a briefing.

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Last weekend, a Lebanese judge ordered a media ban on US Ambassador Dorothy Shea one day after she called out Hezbollah for destabilizing Lebanon and jeopardizing its economic recovery.

In his order, the judge said that Shea spoke about “a Lebanese party represented in parliament and cabinet and that enjoys a wide popular base,” referring to Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Asked if there were fears of any military escalation between Hezbollah and Israel in the near future, Pompeo said, “we’re always concerned about the space between Hezbollah and Israel, but related to this incident with our ambassador and her ability to speak freely there, I’m – that doesn’t raise my concerns greatly.”

Pompeo added: “I don’t think that greatly increases the risk of conflict between the two.”

After the judge’s order last Saturday, US Embassy spokesperson Casey Bonfield said it was “disappointing that, with these challenging economic times, some are attempting to distract and censor. We, as Americans, embrace freedom of speech, and the important role of a free media, and we know Lebanon does as well.”

Shea said that a senior official in the Lebanese government apologized to her for Judge Mohammad Mazeh’s move.

A senior official from President Michel Aoun’s office criticized Mazeh, saying his order contradicted international and diplomatic treaties. “This judge should get a warning of some sorts from the Higher Judicial Council,” the official previously told Al Arabiya English, adding that it was out of the judge’s prerogatives to make such a decision.

Mazeh was referred to Judicial Inspection Board over his controversial ban after he had threatened to resign if questioned, suggesting the measure undermined judicial independence.

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- With AFP