The charges against Lebanese media mogul Tahsin Khayat, who was arrested by security officers on Saturday, were "trumped up" by parties involved in financial corruption, his lawyer Abdel Salam Shueib said yesterday.
Late yesterday, Khayat was released on bail.
Khayat, who owns the New-TV channel and is known for his outspoken criticism of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, was remanded in custody for "presumed links with Israel," Lebanese officials said. He was also accused of having "harmed Lebanon's relations with its friends".
"My client was taken into custody on alleged charges of collaborating with the enemy, without conducting any investigations," Shueib told Gulf News by telephone from Beirut. "The accusations were built upon concocted information, and they are both false and malicious."
Shueib believes the move aims to coerce Khayat "to change the line of his programmes".
"New-TV has tackled and will always tackle the sensitive and hot issues both locally and regionally," he said, referring to the Al Medina Bank fraud case, which ruffled more than a few feathers, and the presence of US troops in the Gulf, which prompted Hariri to shut down the station a few months ago.
"Tahsin Khayat is well-known as a patriot and an Arab nationalist," Shueib said. "He deals with Israel and the US as enemies and not allies, especially when it comes to the Palestinian intifada and the situation in Iraq."
The lawyer deplored the manner in which his client was taken into custody, saying it was against international law and human rights: "A suspect is innocent until proven guilty." Shueib pointed out that Lebanese public opinion was overwhelmingly in support of Khayat.
Former Prime Minister Salim Al Hoss and Former House Speaker Hussain Al Hussain have both denounced Khayat's detention, and along with several other senior politicians, have agreed that the accusations are "baseless and false".
Shueib added that in the days running up to the arrest, his client had received several threatening phone calls from individuals involved in the Al Medina Bank case.
"They were trying to silence him, and stop him from airing programmes, which tackled financial corruption in Lebanon, particularly the Al Medina Bank case," said the lawyer.
Khalil Abu Shawareb, Vice Chairman and General Manager of New-TV, said 55-year-old Khayat had received a threatening phone call an hour before his arrest at 6pm on Saturday.
"First he received a threatening call on his mobile," recalled Abu Shaw-areb. "An hour later, security forces raided the TV station and searched for him. When they couldn't find him, they headed directly to his house, arrested him and took him to the Ministry of Defence - Yarzeh."
Khayat's detention marks the first time the owner of a private Lebanese television channel has been detained.
Abu Shawareb, who sounded distraught over the telephone, said Khayat was not permitted to see his lawyers. He believes that the charges are "malicious and very difficult for both his friends and enemies to believe".
"No one can believe these charges that he is collaborating with the enemy, knowing what a patriotic person he is," he said. "These allegations were trumped up by certain people who are trying to exert pressure on (Khayat) to change the TV station's line," he said.
He added: "These pressures are being exerted by those people who are benefiting from the corruption that New-TV endeavours to expose."
Abdel Salam Shueib, however, assured, that the case would not reach the courts. "It's only a matter of two or three days," he said. "Sooner or later, the investigators will come to know that all the accusations were built on misleading information."