Drug lord delivers blunt Lebanon protest support

Baalbek (Lebanon) (AFP) –


A week into daily demonstrations that have gone on into the early hours, the Lebanese may be in need of a pick me up -- and the country's most famous drug dealer offered just that Thursday.

Nouh Zaiter, a hashish dealer on the run from Lebanese authorities, delivered a blunt message in support of anti-corruption protests that have crippled the country.

The self-styled Lebanese Robin Hood released a video on a local news site calling on protesters in the eastern Baalbek region to demonstrate on Thursday evening.

"I hope that everyone who goes to the protests brings a Lebanese flag with them," he said, in an address laced with anger.

"I hope that every oppressed and deprived person goes to the square," he said, wearing a baseball cap backwards, a hoodie and a chain around his neck.

Protests sparked on October 17 by a proposed tax on calls made through messaging apps like Whatsapp have morphed into unprecedented cross-sectarian street demonstrations.

Demonstrators are demanding corruption be weeded out, as well as the overthrow of the entire political class.

In downtown Beirut, where tens of thousands have gathered daily, graffiti reading "Nouh Zaiter for president" has been scrawled in at least one location.

Baalbek, a poor and somewhat lawless area close to the Syrian border, is affiliated with the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

It is known as the drug capital of Lebanon, with hashish grown relatively openly.

Zaiter, who courts media attention, did not say if he would attend Thursday's protest but is wanted on 4,000 charges, according to an AFP correspondent in Baalbek.

In February Lebanese security forces seized 20 truckloads of Zaitar's hash from a farm in Bekaa, local media reported.

In 2014 a bullet grazed his shoulder during a shootout with the Lebanese army, a local newspaper reported.