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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 10:17 GMT
Censors raid Beirut's Virgin Megastore
Beirut
Beirut has been promoting itself as a business-friendly city
Lebanese police have seized hundreds of DVD films from a Virgin store in Beirut.

Security services said they carried out the raids because the films "undermined religions, contravened good morals and Israeli boycott laws, or included texts inciting young people to commit suicide".


The raid was conducted as if there were dangerous criminals inside

Virgin
Films confiscated included Some Like It Hot, The Nutty Professor The Great Escape, Rush Hour, Key Largo, Jesus of Nazareth and all of Stanley Kubrick's films.

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, who opened the store in July to mark the group's expansion in the Middle East, has sent letters of protest to Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and President Emile Lahoud.

Policemen

The store was housed in an art deco building that used to be a landmark cinema before the 1975-1990 civil war.

Witnesses said a score of plain-clothed and uniformed policemen raided the store on Thursday.

Sir Richard Branson
Branson: Looking to Middle East expansion
The store manager then spent most of the next two days in police custody.

There were also reports of a raid on Saturday.

"It would have been enough for one police officer to come," said the store management in a statement.

"The raid was conducted as if there were dangerous criminals inside."

Heavy metal

A Virgin official said it was hard to know what was banned and what was not in Lebanon.

The store did not sell most rock and heavy metal CDs, for fear of offending the Lebanese authorities, said the official.

But Frank Sinatra is also banned - as are the films of Elizabeth Taylor, regarded as being pro-Israeli.

"We are amazed," said the Virgin official.

"Lebanese television stations broadcast most of the confiscated DVDs over and over."

The case has been referred to legal authorities, said a security services' statement released on the official ANI news agency.

The raids, which resulted in the confiscation of some 600 DVDs, were criticised in the press by MP Boutros Harb, who said Lebanon "was increasingly becoming a police state."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kim Ghattas
"Jewish or pro-Israeli performers have often seen their work censored"
See also:

19 Nov 01 | Business
Branson mulls Virgin Blue sale
18 Oct 01 | Business
Virgin sheds Our Price stores
27 Jul 01 | Business
Branson sells French retail chain
16 May 01 | Business
Branson raises trans-Tasman stakes
01 May 01 | Business
Airlines clash down under
31 Aug 00 | Business
Virgin Blue takes off down under
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