Antoinette Chahine was accused of participating in an attack in Lebanon in 1997 and sentenced to death at the age of 22. After being tortured and imprisoned for 5 years, she was finally acquitted and released on 24 June 1999.
In her book Crime d’innocence (My Crime Is That I Was Innocent) published in 2007 in which she describes her ordeal, she writes: “In an office, I am seated on a chair. I am blindfolded. Several people come to interrogate me... I've said everything, I don’t have anything to add, I would like to go home, as long as they do not hold me too long, and this present for mother’s day that I still haven’t found...
The fear overwhelms me, always surfacing with this feeling that it can’t be true, this spiral of insanity in which I am held. The psychological pressure increases. I am humiliated, treated as a criminal.”
Later on, Antoinette goes into more detail: “They grabbed my hair to hit my head against the wall. My head, a balloon, a hollow object that bounces at the whim of my torturers. The ordeal of ‘balanco’ is the rule here: hands tied behind the back and blindfolded, the whole body is lifted by a rope hanging from the ceiling.”
Finally, the verdict arrives: “I learn that I am sentenced to capital punishment, commuted to life imprisonment, ‘commuted’? I don’t know what is worse. I am already somewhere else, fainting with the shock... I want to speak but no sound passes my lips. I want to stand up, my legs do not respond. I find myself confined in a double prison, one within me, one around me”.
Since she was freed, Antoinette has become a key defender of human rights, taking on the challenge of tirelessly raising awareness to combat injustice, torture and the death penalty internationally and in her own country of Lebanon.