Lebanese agent said to have framed actor accused of collaborating with Israel

Blaming him for her firing from security service, former official reportedly hired a hacker to link Ziad Itani to Mossad

A file picture taken on July 18, 2013, shows Lebanese writer and actor Ziad Itani performing on stage in the capital Beirut. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
A file picture taken on July 18, 2013, shows Lebanese writer and actor Ziad Itani performing on stage in the capital Beirut. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

A Lebanese actor and writer indicted last November on charges of collaborating with Israel was framed by a former Lebanese security official in a revenge scheme over the loss of her job, according to local reports on Saturday.

In November, Ziad Itani was arrested and accused of collaborating with an Israeli female spy to collect information about Lebanese politicians and journalists.

The case had gripped Lebanon at a time of heightened domestic tension over the resignation of the Saudi-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

However, according to The Daily Star, Itani’s “collaboration” was orchestrated by former Internal Security Forces official Maj. Suzan Hajj Hobeiche, who hired a hacker to create an internet trail between the actor and a fake “female Mossad agent.”

Hobeiche was angry over Itani’s screenshot of a tweet that she had liked, which she felt contributed to her firing from the security service in October 2017.

“Hobeiche did it in retaliation after Itani screenshotted her ‘like’ of a Twitter post,” a judicial source told The Daily Star.

She had liked — and quickly unliked — a tweet about Saudi Arabia’s decision to let women drive. “The news of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia was incomplete. Women will be allowed to drive the car only if it is rigged [with explosives],” it said.

A picture taken on November 6, 2010, shows then Internal security forces captain Suzan al-Hajj posing for a pic at her office in the Hadath region.(AFP PHOTO / : AFP / ANWAR AMRO)

Blaming Itani for her dismissal from the post, Hobeiche hired a hacker to incriminate the actor on collaboration charges, leading to his arrest and subsequent indictment.

The hacker has been arrested and confessed to the scheme, according to reports. It was not immediately clear if Itani was still in custody.

Late last year, Itani was accused of collaborating with a Mossad agent to gather information about political developments following the Lebanese premier’s resignation, and specifically about an ally of the prime minister.

Lebanon and Israel are formally at war and collaborating with Israel can be punishable by death.

Lebanese authorities have said Itani was arrested “after several months of monitoring, follow-up and investigations within and outside” Lebanon.

Itani shot to prominence in recent years because of a series of comedy plays on Beirut, its customs and the transformations it has undergone in recent decades.

The works — particularly “Beirut Tariq al-Jdideh,” which refers to a majority-Sunni neighbourhood of the city — have been very well-received.

Before becoming an actor, Itani worked as a reporter with Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television channel and with various regional newspapers.

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