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Lebanon should halt its repeated harassment of human rights activists, Human Rights Watch said today. The Lebanese government must remove all travel and other restrictions on Samira Trad, whose organization Frontiers Center promotes the rights of refugees and other marginalized people in the country.

Samira Trad returned home to Beirut from a working trip to several European countries on September 3. Shortly afterwards, Lebanese security officials "invited" her to meet with them on September 10. Following this meeting, she was detained in the prison where illegal immigrants are usually held. She told her lawyers that she was accused during her interrogation of tarnishing the reputation of the state of Lebanon and founding an illegal organization. She was released the next day, September 11. No formal charges have been filed against her, but she was told not to leave the country.

She had been called in for questioning approximately six months previously and told that she should stop her efforts to provide legal assistance and advice to non-Palestinian refugees.The Frontiers Center is registered with the Lebanese authorities as a civil company.

"We can only conclude that Samira Trad's detention and the restrictions on her travel are intended to punish her and intimidate others from speaking critically about government policies," said Joe Stork, acting executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "This harassment is especially worrying in the wake of the government's detention last month of human rights lawyer Muhamed Mugraby."

Just a month earlier, on August 8, Dr. Muhamed Mugraby was detained by Lebanese police under the seemingly politically motivated charge of "impersonating a lawyer." He was released from detention on August 29, and a hearing date has not been set. This arrest followed a series of attempts by the Beirut Bar Association to prevent him from practicing law. An anti-corruption activist, Dr. Mugraby has campaigned for investigations into judicial corruption. He has also called for an inquiry into the "disappearances" of two Lebanese who had been transferred to Syrian custody in 1997.

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