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Lebanon detains children for tearing down political banner

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Beirut (AFP)

Lebanese security forces briefly arrested five youths, including three minors, for allegedly pulling down a sign for the president's political party, sparking outrage Sunday on social media.

Defence lawyers said the five were taken into custody on Saturday evening in the town of Hammana east of Beirut over claims they tore down a sign for President Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement.

Security forces released them after midnight after taking a statement from them, the Committee of Lawyers for the Defence of Protesters said.

The army said two of the children were 15 years old, while the third was 12.

The news sparked indignation on social media, in the latest outcry in a country gripped by spontaneous anti-government protests since October 17.

"Down with the regime that arrests children," said one user.

"When a 12-year-old child manages to shake the state's throne, you know the state is corrupt," another wrote.

During the first month of demonstrations, security forces arrested 300 people including 12 minors who were released within the next 24 or 48 hours, according to the lawyers' committee.

But 11 people -- including two minors -- remain in detention accused of attacking a hotel in the southern city of Tyre in the first week of the uprising.

Lebanon's protests have brought together people of all ages from across the political spectrum, tired of what they describe as sectarian politics three decades after a civil war.

In the latest show of unity on Sunday, a festive mood reigned as Lebanese came together in public spaces across the country on the second day of the weekend.

Women prepared traditional salads to share north of the capital, while a group of men danced on the beach to its south, state television showed.

The demonstrators managed to bring down the government less than two weeks into the protests, but it remains in a caretaker capacity and no new cabinet has been formed since.

The Free Patriotic Movement party founded by Aoun is now led by his son-in-law, outgoing foreign minister Gibran Bassil, one of the most reviled figures in the protests.

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