Lebanon president demands proof against US-sanctioned minister
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Beirut (AFP) –
Lebanon's president on Saturday asked for proof against his son-in-law and ex-cabinet minister Gebran Bassil to justify US sanctions for alleged corruption, the presidency said.
The sanctions announced Friday are the first against a senior Christian ally of Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite movement long targeted by US sanctions and blacklisted as a "terrorist" organisation.
President Michel "Aoun has asked his foreign minister to obtain the proof and documents that pushed the US Treasury to direct accusations against lawmaker Gebran Bassil", his office said on Twitter.
Aoun also stressed "the necessity of handing over the documents to the Lebanese judiciary to take the necessary measures", it said.
A source at the presidency said the request was made as "Bassil is a Lebanese lawmaker and (former) minister accused of graft".
"If there were evidence against him, the Lebanese judiciary should follow up on the issue," the source said.
Bassil, 50, has been dubbed by many as the "shadow president".
He is married to the president's daughter and heads the Free Patriotic Movement founded by Aoun, which together with its allies holds a parliamentary majority.
He was minister in every single cabinet from 2008 to late last year, when the cabinet stepped down under pressure from massive street protests against the entrenched political elite.
His portfolios included communications, energy and most recently foreign affairs.
Critics say he was behind many shady state dealings, especially during his time at the head of the energy ministry between 2009 and 2014.
But Bassil has repeatedly denied the accusations.
In September, Washington also slapped US sanctions on former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and ex-transport minister Youssef Fenianos over alleged support to Hezbollah and corruption.
Lebanon is mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, with recovery hampered by endless political deadlocks.
Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri is struggling to form a cabinet to replace a government that resigned after a devastating August 4 blast at Beirut port.
© 2020 AFP