Lebanon : I Spent Six Months Inside Lebanon's Most Notorious Prison

Roumieh, Lebanon’s most notorious prison, is not somewhere you want to find yourself. The facility regularly holds up to 5,500 inmates, including some of the country’s most high-profile criminals—among them, former Israeli agents and Salafists linked with insurrections against the Lebanese state. The prison is yet to meet the minimum standards stipulated by the UN. Those who officiate the prison have also faced numerous accusations of corruption; high-security prisoners have escaped, reportedly without authorities even realizing, and prison guards and doctors have been charged with trafficking drugs inside its walls.

“Khodr” (a pseudonym) is a pro-Syrian revolution activist who fled to Lebanon in 2011 to avoid military conscription. Arriving in Beirut after bribing Syrian border authorities with 2,000 Syrian lira, he continued his activism, networking with members of the Free Syrian Army to facilitate the safe-passage of foreign journalists seeking to report from within Syria.

In March of 2013 he was picked up by the intelligence branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, who had been watching him for a while. Forced into the back of a 4x4 with a hood over his face, Khodr was interrogated for three days before standing trial at a military court. Accused of colluding with the Syrian opposition and thereby “assaulting” the security of the Lebanese state, he was sent to Roumieh and served six months of his sentence, before an Anglican priest helped him with his release.

Now, with a deportation order against him and with his passport still being held by authorities, Khodr remains in Lebanon illegally but is unable to leave. I sat down with him to talk about his experience in the prison.

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