Tripoli Bar Association green lights prosecuting lawyer suspected of exploiting children

BEIRUT — The Tripoli Bar Association Council gave its permission on Monday to prosecute a lawyer suspected of being implicated in the case of a pedophile network operating in Lebanon via the social network TikTok, the bar said in a statement.

The statement did not include the name of the lawyer.

The head of a Lebanese gang — whose members were arrested in recent days for alleged sexual assaults on children via TikTok — used the dark web to conduct the alleged crimes, according to local media outlets.

According to police, the group lured the children through TikTok messages and then sold exploitative images of them on the dark web. On Friday night, a woman, also implicated in the pedophile network, under several different pseudonyms, was arrested on a search warrant, bringing the number of suspects arrested to date to 11.

A lawyer and a member of the Tripoli Bar Association Council is suspected of being part of this ring.

“We were horrified to receive, on May 8, a request for permission to prosecute a member of the Bar Association in a case that affects social security and the rights of children,” the Tripoli Bar Association Council said in its statement. “We dealt with the request that came to us with the utmost urgency, without disturbing the integrity and regularity of the procedures. We conducted our internal investigation and issued our approval to prosecute the lawyer and we will inform him of the competent judiciary.”

Details of the pedophile ring, in which some 30 people are said to be involved, started coming to light last Wednesday, when local media reported on the case, following the decision of the parents of eight children, more than a month ago, to lodge child abuse allegations with the Public Prosecutor’s Office against one of the suspects. The head of the cybercrime unit of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), Patrick Obeid, then began investigating the case with the minors and their families.

Among those arrested are a well-known TikTok hairdresser and clothing retailer, a dentist, a photographer, a man who transferred funds between gang members, a cab driver and three minors.

Other suspects are believed to be abroad, prompting Tanios Saghbini, public prosecutor at the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal, to send rogatory letters to the countries in which they are believed to be located, to obtain mutual legal assistance. He also issued two arrest warrants, via Interpol, for two suspects: one in Dubai and the other in Sweden.

The Tripoli Bar Association Council also said that it is launching “a hotline to provide support to victims targeted by criminal hands, aiming to cooperate with educational and social institutions in raising awareness of families and their children.” The hotline number is 81/519782.