Beirut Pride suspended after leader detained by police
Beirut Pride events have been suspended after its founder was detained by police.
Hadi Damien, who created the festival, has now been released by authorities after being taken in yesterday for questioning in the Lebanese capital.
It is still not clear why he was detained.
A source close to Hadi told PinkNews: “There’s lots of speculation so I don’t know what’s true and what’s not.
“The police closed down one of the two events last night and took Hadi in for questioning. He was released about an hour and a half ago and now the rest of pride is suspended.
“Everyone here is waiting on the full explanation to be published.”
Beirut Pride’s Facebook page confirmed what Damien himself has told his followers, writing that he had been released and that “Beirut Pride is safe.
“The events scheduled under the label of Beirut Pride until May 20, 2018 are suspended for the time being,” the message continued.
“We thank you for your concern and empathy, and kindly ask you to refrain from speculating. We will issue a detailed statement by 9pm to explain [what is] happening. #alwaysproud #foreverstrong”
Beirut Pride was held for the first time last year, as Islamist threats failed to stop the festival – which was said to be the first in the Arab world.
More than 4,000 people attended parties, workshops, and conferences as part of the week-long event.
Damien said last year that attendance at the week-long event had “surpassed all initial expectations” despite it also suffering a forced cancellation.
The first event was cancelled due to safety concerns, after the League of Muslim Scholars condemned the event on social media.
Homosexuality is still against the law in Lebanon, and punishable by up to one year in prison.
However, a top judge said last year that homosexuality should not be illegal, a landmark decision which raised hopes that the country is moving toward decriminalisation.
Judge Rabih Maalouf declared that “homosexuality is a personal choice, and not a punishable offence”.
And in March this year, politicians called on authorities to decriminalise gay sex.
Right-wing Christian Democrat party Kataeb announced plans to scrap the law, placing pressure on the government.
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Currently, article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature”.
Activists have said that if article 534 is scrapped, it will bring dramatic improvement to LGBTQ equality in the middle eastern country.
The executive director of Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, Georges Azzi, said at the time: “We have been pushing for parties to publicly support the LGBTI community for a long time.
“We have had closed door promises but this is the first time politicians have publicly supported us.”