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Lebanese lawmaker stages bank sit-in to free trapped savings

A Lebanese lawmaker has entered a bank branch unarmed with two of her lawyers to free trapped dollar deposits she needs to pay for surgery, according to her lawyer.

Cynthia Zarazir, who was elected to parliament in May polls, is the latest in a growing number of angry depositors who are forcing Lebanese lenders to unlock savings trapped under informal capital controls imposed amid an unprecedented financial crisis.

Zarazir entered her bank branch in a northern suburb of Beirut at around 9 am (0600 GMT) on Wednesday to demand $8,500 to pay for surgery costs not covered by her health insurance, her lawyer Fouad Debs said from inside the bank.

“We will not leave until we get the money,” Debs told AFP news agency, nearly three hours after they entered the branch.

Several activists gathered outside the bank to support Zarazir, whose plight echoes that of the many Lebanese who have been locked out of their savings by bank restrictions that have gradually tightened since the start of the financial crash in 2019.

Depositors storm more Lebanese banks over withdrawal limits

Bank protests

On Tuesday, a retired diplomat and honorary consul of Ireland, Georges Siam, carried out an all-day sit-in at a bank on the suburbs of Beirut to recover his savings before eventually reaching a compromise.

Almost simultaneously, at least two other armed bank heists took place in separate branches.

They included one by a retired policeman who held up a bank in east Lebanon to demand a money transfer to his son in Ukraine to help pay for rent and university tuition.

Lebanon’s banks had closed for a week after a series of heists on September 16. They have since reopened amid tight security.

READ MORE: Woman robs bank in Lebanon to pay for ill sister’s treatment

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