Lebanese man who held up bank for trapped savings free with no charges
The man has been released from custody after charges against him were dropped.
The Lebanese man, who took bank staff hostage last week in Beirut to demand the release of his deposits frozen by the bank in the wake of the economic crisis in Lebanon, has been released from custody after charges against him were dropped.
Judge Ghassan Al-Khoury ordered the release of Bassam Al-Sheikh Hussein, who stormed a Federal Bank branch in Beirut with a firearm in his hands. The order came after the bank dropped the charges against him, according to the state-run National News Agency on Tuesday.
A judicial official told AFP on Wednesday that the man has since been released but still faces possible charges.
Hussein turned himself in when the bank accepted to let him withdraw $30,000 of his more than $200,000 in trapped savings, media reports said.
Hussein decided to put such pressure on the bank to be able to access part of his savings so he could pay for his father's surgery, state media reported.
The incident came amid one of the most severe economic crises in Lebanon and angry depositors being unable to access savings that have been frozen since 2019.
Since Lebanon's political and banking elite are blamed by the people for the financial crisis, Hussein has been hailed as a hero by many in the country.
In a report this month, the World Bank blamed Lebanese authorities for misusing and misspending people's deposits over the past 30 years, accusing them of a "Ponzi" scheme approach to public finance that benefited key political and economic actors at the expense of regular depositors.
"The government consistently and acutely departed from orderly and disciplined fiscal policy to serve the larger purpose of cementing political economy interests," the report stated, calling the economic crisis a "deliberate depression."