The German dairy specialist, who is working for cheese manufacturer "Liban Light" at their factory in the town of Talya on the Riaq-Baalbeck road was the engineer responsible for the technical maintenance of the machines. Liban Light’s specialty is cheese strings. Maybe the paranoid Lebanese authority is worried that cheese string technology might fall in to the hands of the Israelis, but it was no laughing matter for poor Manfred. The Lebanese are not high on the list countries likely to bother with a person’s human rights.
Manfred drew the suspicions of the Lebanese Intelligence Agency because he was “in possession of sophisticated communication equipment” (surely these days that is a mobile telephone with Internet capability not an amateur radio transceiver?). He was subjected to intense questioning (which usually mean beatings and torture) by counter-intelligence officers before eventually being released late on Tuesday.
Since the beginning of last year some 70 foreigners have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel. Two men have been already sentenced to death for espionage while the other suspects face the death penalty or life in prison with hard labour. Last week the Lebanese cabinet unanimously agreed to file a complaint with the UN Security Council against Israel, over alleged spy rings uncovered in Lebanon. Israel has not commented on any of the Lebanese charges. The 13-member Hezbollah bloc in the Lebanese parliament stressed “the need to uncover and execute individuals charged with collaborating with Israel.”
The fertile Bekaa Valley is dairy farming country and is where the cheese factories are. It is also one of the strongholds of the Shiite militia Hezbollah. Liban Light’s factory is on the road that connects the provincial capital of Baalbeck with the south of the country. It is well known that this road is a main route for weapons smuggling from Syria to Hezbollah on the border with Israel. The factory was destroyed during the July 2006 Israeli conflict with Lebanon. Any foreigner with a radio is likely to be treated with suspicion by the notoriously paranoid locals who tend to sympathize with Hezbollah. Manfred was probably put in the frame by someone local with connections to the militia.