Lebanon’s state prosecutor has released a man who took up to 10 people hostage in a bank at gunpoint while demanding funds from his locked savings account.
In the court decision obtained by the Associated Press, state prosecutor Ghassan Ouweidat said Federal Bank had dropped its charges against food delivery driver Bassam al Sheikh Hussein on Tuesday.
In a case that has drawn nationwide attention, Hussein, 42, fired three warning shots from a shotgun last Thursday at a Federal Bank branch in Beirut.
He threatened to douse himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze if the bank didn't let him withdraw his $210,000 in savings for his father’s medical bills and other expenses.
Hussein was released from custody after he went on a hunger strike and the bank dropped charges against him.
Hussein had locked himself in the bank and held up to 10 people hostage for about seven hours.
Dozens of protesters gathered around the bank to support him, while soldiers and riot police cordoned off the area. No one was injured.
Tied up savings
Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks since 2019 have imposed strict limits on withdrawals of foreign currency, tying up the savings of millions of people.
About three-quarters of the population have slipped into poverty, as the tiny Mediterranean country’s economy continues to spiral.
After hours of negotiations, Hussein and officers agreed that the bank would release $35,000 of his savings, while he and his brother would be briefly questioned at the Internal Security Forces headquarters in the Lebanese capital.
Hussein's lawyers said his family had received the money.
The bank’s lawyer declined to talk about the details of the settlement reached with Hussein allowing him to withdraw some of his savings last week.
Hussein had been held in pre-trial detention after Federal Bank pressed charges.
A small group of protesters had gathered outside the courthouse earlier Tuesday, temporarily closing off the main road to traffic. They chanted slogans calling for Hussein's release.
The state has yet to drop its charges against Hussein, whose actions could land him up to two years in jail.