Lebanon: Police Arrest Owner of Café Destroyed in Beirut Explosion for Refusing to Leave

Beirut in lebanon
PATRICK BAZ/AFP via Getty Images

Police arrested the owner of a café in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday after failing to provide identification documents and refusing to vacate the premises, devastated by the massive explosion in the capital this month.

Rana al-Dirani, whose father is the owner of the popular Em Nazih Cafe in Beirut, filmed herself swearing at police as he was dragged out of the building over concerns that it may collapse. She has since apologized for using expletives.

“We will be allowed to return upon completion of the building’s renovation,” Dirani wrote in a Facebook post, apologizing for using expletives at the Internal Security Forces Directorate (ISF). “Based on this, we apologize for these actions and the [curse] words directed at the ISF.”

The café was one of the thousands of buildings damaged during the recent explosion in Beirut, estimated to have caused around $15 billion in damages. Authorities believe that a cache of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a highly combustible chemical, caused the blast. The substance remained unsecured in a warehouse at the Port of Beirut since officials confiscated it from a seized ship in 2013, despite multiple requests by local officials to move it somewhere safer.

Outside of Beirut, Lebanon has been enduring a dire economic crisis for months, exacerbated by the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic and strict lockdown measures imposed to allegedly prevent the virus from spreading further.

On Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported that merchants and business owners across the country plan to defy coronavirus lockdown measures, arguing they can no longer afford to stay closed amid the deepening economic crisis that began last year but has since been exacerbated by the explosion and the global pandemic.

“We will not be able to keep our stores closed for another day due to the terrible economic situation,” said Nicolas Chammas, chairman of the Beirut Traders Association, told the Qatari outlet. “We asked the government to weigh the economic costs as it did the health risks.”

Tony Rami, head of the syndicate of restaurant, cafe and club owners, announced that they too planned to ignore the lockdown orders to avoid excessive financial losses.

“We will not close our doors after today, nor will we pay a single penny before there is a new country that knows how to invest our money,” he said in a televised news conference. Civil disobedience has become an acquired and legitimate right. Our losses are estimated at $1 billion.”

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