'General Suleiman' Song Lands Musician in Jail
Lebanese vocalist and musician Zeid Hamdan was briefly detained on Wednesday for slander over a song posted on YouTube in which he urges President Michel Suleiman to "go home."
"General prosecutor Saeed Mirza ordered Zeid Hamdan detained for a song posted more than 18 months ago," Zeid’s lawyer Nizar Saghiyyeh told Agence France Presse.
"This is shocking," he added. "This case concerning the reputation of the president suddenly erupts while in the entire region you have heads of state being brought down and the people calling on them to leave.
"It is surreal in Lebanon to have this taking place."
Zeid was released late Wednesday, Saghiyyeh said.
He said the prosecutor must now decide whether to file formal charges against his 35-year-old client. Slandering the president in Lebanon carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.
The rebel artist was interrogated by the authorities for the first time on July 20 and another time on July 21, Saghiyyeh said earlier in a statement.
The lawyer called on the Lebanese public opinion to “take a stance in defense of public freedoms in Lebanon.”
Earlier in the day, Zeid wrote on his Facebook wall that he was arrested Wednesday morning on charges of "defamation".
"Dear friends, I am now in the prison of the police station of the palace of justice in Beirut because of my song 'General Soleiman'. They are prosecuting me for defammation of President Soleiman. I dont know, until when I am staying in prison. Please mobilize!" Zeid wrote on his wall.
In the song, entitled "General Suleiman", Zeid's band criticizes the warlords and corrupt politicians in the country: "All the militia man GO HOME Corrupted politician GO HOME, To Weapon dealer say GO HOME, To trouble maker say GO HOME, Foreign intelligence GO HOME, Neighbor influence GO HOME,... General Suleiman, U're a miracle man, Gene gene general , GO HOME !"
The song's video was uploaded to YouTube in August 2010.
Zeid's production company Eka3 issued a statement denouncing his detention as a bid to trample on freedom of expression in the country.
"It's hilarious really," a company official said, requesting anonymity. "Here you have all these revolutions going on in the Arab world and we have this in Lebanon."
Zeid was one half of Soapkills, the seminal electro-Arabic fusion act whose other half Yasmine Hamdan was the voice of an entire generation of post-civil war youth in Beirut.
A veteran on the independent music scene in Beirut, Zeid has a mystique about him within the Lebanese cultural milieu.
He is currently the vocalist of "Zeid and the Wings".
In 2010 three young men were arrested and charged with defaming Suleiman after they criticized the president on the social networking website Facebook.
No charges were brought against them and they were released after 11 days.