Lebanese writer and actor Ziad Itani performing on stage in the capital Beirut..
(photo credit: ANWAR AMRO / AFP)
Lebanon's Interior Minister, Mouhad al-Mashnouk, announced via Twitter on Friday that Ziad Itani, a Lebanese actor accused of spying for Israel on behalf of the Mossad, had been cleared of the charges against him.
Itani was arrested and indicted in November after he was accused of "collaborating with Israel." Lebanon's internal security agency said that he had confessed to meeting with Israelis and had provided them intel. A report released about him stated that he favored "supporting Zionist ideas" and "establishing a Lebanese network to support the concept of normalization with Israel."
Now, the Information Branch of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces is investigating an intelligence official who reportedly fabricated evidence that was used to arrest Itani, according to Lebanese news site An-Nahar.
The individual, Major Susan Hajj Hobeiche, who once director the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau at the ISF, is said to have hired a hacker in an attempt to frame Itani.
The hacker, reportedly an informant for the ISF, is said to have created fake social media accounts both in Itani's name and in the names of made-up Israelis, forging conversations between them.
It is presumed that Hobeiche acted in revenge for an incident in which Itani shared a screenshot of a tweet that Hobeiche had favorited. The tweet, by a Lebanese film director, had mocked a Saudi Arabian decree permitting women to drive; Hobeiche later claimed she had liked the tweet on accident, and had believed it to have been sincere.
Hobeiche is one of several individuals being investigated for their roles in the framing of Itani.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun and the country's Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri called on the public not to politicize what has been termed the "Ziad Itani Affaire."
Hariri asked individuals and the media to "stop exploiting [the affair] by harming the reputation of justice and law enforcement."
Aoun said the "everyone must respect the secret of the investigation and refrain from making information public before the end of the judicial process."