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Three Lebanese judges resign over political interference, low pay

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By Reuters

<div> <p>By Timour Azhari</p> <p><span class="caps">BEIRUT</span> – Three senior Lebanese female judges have tendered their resignations in protest at political interference and the collapse in the value of their pay as a financial and political crisis rages.</p> <p>A political system based on sectarian balance and patronage has led to decades of economic mismanagement and corruption, and has undermined a legal system where many judges are appointed for their loyalty rather than effectiveness.</p> <p>There is dramatic evidence of this in a campaign by politicians to hobble a judicial inquiry into last year’s catastrophic Beirut port blast.</p> <p>“This is a wake-up call about everything that is going wrong: the living conditions, the political intervention – basically the country is falling apart,” Rola Husseini, who quit as head of Beirut’s Criminal Court of Appeal, told Reuters. </p> <p>Husseini was recently passed up for a position at the top judicial body, the Higher Judicial Council, which went to a judge seen as close to the parliamentary speaker.</p> <p>Judge Jeanette Hanna, who has resigned from Beirut’s Appeals Court, declined to comment while Carla Kassis, who stepped down from the Court of Cassation, could not be reached for comment. </p> <p>The resignations have not yet been accepted by the Judicial Council because the judges are “exceptional members of the judiciary”, a Council spokesperson said.</p> <p>Hanna recently issued a ruling that rejected attempts by former ministers charged over the explosion to remove the judge heading the inquiry. She was then targeted with a lawsuit seeking her removal from the case. </p> <p>The spokesperson also confirmed that a fourth judge, Ziad Mkanna, had resigned about a month ago. Mkanna had investigated malpractice allegations against Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. </p> <p>Justice Minister Henry Khoury did not immediately respond to a request for comment. </p> <p>Husseini said the three female judges would ask the council to take concrete measures to strengthen the judiciary and then decide whether or not to withdraw their resignations.</p> <p>“We’re saying that there are judges in Lebanon who are independent and not affiliated with any (politicians), and there is a massive, shameful attack on them,” Husseini said. </p> <p>“Someone has to stand with us.”</p> <p/> </div>