Lebanon’s banks will suspend an ongoing strike for one week at the request of the country’s caretaker Premier, the Association of the Banks of Lebanon (ABL) announced on Friday, days after the Prime Minister moved against a judge investigating the financial institutions, Reuters reports.
The banks have been on strike since 7 February, following a meeting to discuss the snowballing legal measures they have been facing since Lebanon’s economy began to unravel more than three years ago.
The meltdown has seen severe restrictions imposed on withdrawals and transfers by depositors, many of whom have filed lawsuits against their banks, or held them up to get access to their own funds.
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The ABL said it had decided to halt the strike “based on the wish of the Prime Minister,” so depositors would be able to access banking services.
Caretaker Premier, Najib Mikati, on Tuesday said to Lebanese broadcaster, Al-Jadeed, that he had been in touch with the banking association and expected the strike to end within 48 hours, without offering an explanation.
Mikati and Interior Minister, Bassam Mawlawi, on Wednesday moved to block the work of Judge Ghada Aoun, who has been investigating Lebanon’s financial sector since it collapsed in 2019, following decades of corrupt government, profligate spending and financial mismanagement.
Mikati sent a letter to Mawlawi on Wednesday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, asking that security forces “not carry out decisions issued by” Aoun as they were “an overstepping of authority.”
Mawlawi issued a directive, seen by Reuters, on the same day, telling Lebanon’s General Security Directorate and the Internal Security Forces not to act on Aoun’s orders.
Aoun responded on Twitter that the moves represented “a total breakdown of justice in this poor country.” She called it “an unprecedented interference in the work of the judiciary.”
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