A Lebanese military court handed down a six-month prison sentence to journalist Hanin Ghaddar for presenting views critical of the army, a court official told AFP on Thursday.
Ms. Ghaddar, also a researcher known for her criticism of the powerful Hezbollah movement, was sentenced in absentia on January 10 over an expose at a conference in the United States, the source said.
Her sentence sparked outrage among fellow journalists and academics in Lebanon, where they said free speech and freedom of the press were once again being challenged.
The court official said the ruling found Ms. Ghaddar, a U.S. resident, guilty of “defaming the Lebanese army, harming its reputation and accusing it of distinguishing between Lebanese citizens.”
During a conference session in Washington in 2014, a recording of which is available online, she described the situation in Lebanon as “Sunnis being clamped down by Hezbollah and the Lebanese army versus Hezbollah militia being the untouchables.”
Hezbollah is a Shiite organisation backed by Iran which is represented in the Lebanese government and has a militia often considered more powerful than the national army itself.
The military courts in Lebanon have a very broad jurisdiction over civilians and rights groups have voiced concern that could be used as a tool for intimidation against free speech and activism.
Tensions have been high in Lebanon since last month when the country’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, resigned but then retracted his resignation.