Lebanon News

Labor union ousts Asmar over slurs

The head of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers Bechara Asmar speaks in Beirut, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The General Confederation of Lebanese Workers announced Monday that it accepted the resignation of its head, Bechara Asmar, and called for his immediate release.

In a news conference, the union’s deputy head, Hasan Fakih, condemned the comments made by Asmar in a video leaked Friday, describing them as “reprehensible” and “unacceptable,” whether they were meant in jest or seriously.

A video leaked Friday night showed Asmar making lewd, self-deprecating comments involving Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir ahead of a televised news conference, unaware that he was being recorded.

The comments sparked public outrage shortly after the video was leaked, with public figures calling for his trial and resignation.

Fakih apologized to the Lebanese people, the Maronite Church and its patriarch, Beshara Rai, on behalf of the confederation. Fakih will take over the responsibilities of Asmar, and the confederation will hold regular meetings to “take the appropriate decision in the light of the developments.”

Asmar, who has been detained since Saturday, had legal action taken against him by the appeals court for attacking religious “rituals,” slander and defamation, and was referred to Beirut Investigative Judge George Rizk. The state-run National News Agency reported Asmar will appear Tuesday in front of Rizk.

Fakih told The Daily Star Monday that the confederation’s secretariat received Asmar’s written resignation after receiving a verbal one a day earlier.

The acting head said the confederation called for Asmar’s release and his return to his job at Beirut Port’s silos, saying that the talk that surrounded Asmar following the incident was enough.

Economy Minister Mansour Bteich announced in a tweet Sunday that his ministry would terminate its contract with Asmar at the port “after his denounced ethical fall.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 21, 2019, on page 3.

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