By Olivia Alabaster
BEIRUT: Activists calling for electoral reform in Downtown Beirut Wednesday say they were beaten by security forces, with two requiring hospital treatment for their injuries.
Around 40 members of the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform gathered in Nejmeh Square and formed a human chain before, they say, security forces came to break up the demonstration and then began attacking many of them.
Adnan Melki, secretary-general of the CCER, said that he was shocked by what happened.
“Our original plan was that if they asked us to move we would go to Riad al-Solh. But they just started pushing us,” he said. “We thought of every scenario but we didn’t expect this to happen.”
Activists were beaten and had their cameras and cellphones confiscated, and were forced to delete any photos they had taken, he said. One woman went to hospital with a broken toe and another activist was treated for head injuries, Melki added.
A source from the Internal Security Forces denied that force had been used and told The Daily Star that parliamentary security staff only asked the activists to move away from the area.
“Police are not allowed to use violence,” he said, and added that no reports had been filed.
“Nothing can justify what happened, even the sensitivity of the position [near Parliament], which I understand. It was a very peaceful action,” Melki said, adding that even onlookers had their phones confiscated and were instructed to return to their offices.
“I think this incident is part of the growing trend of stopping people from expressing their opinion.”
Lebanese media watchdog SKEyes has condemned the alleged attack.
Activists met as various parliamentary committees were meeting to discuss the issue of electoral reform, which has been repeatedly stalled. Elections are scheduled for early 2013.
The CCER has planned a follow-up demonstration, in Riad al-Solh, at 1.30 p.m. Thursday, followed by a news conference.