Beirut blast charges prompt Lebanon Gangs to defend each other

This August 4, 2020 file photo, is the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. 218 killed , 7000 Injured , after 2,750 Tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years. . President Michel Aoun and PM Diab knew about the Ammonium Nitrate 2 weeks before the explosion but did nothing about it . Judge Fadi Sawan who was initially in charge of the investigation was fired for charging Hezbollah backed Lebanese government officials with negligence over the explosion . Judge Tarek Bitar replaced Judge Sawan and Hezbollah has been for months trying to get him fired too , reportedly because it is concerned about exposing its role in supplying the Syrian government with the explosive chemical for use in its barrel bombs (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, Beirut, Lebanon(Photo by Anwar Amro/AFP)
This August 4, 2020 file photo, is the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. 200 killed , several still missing , 6500 Injured after 2,750 Tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years. The shelf life of the product is supposed to be 6 months according to experts . After 6 months it starts solidifying and becomes more explodable . President Michel Aoun and PM Diab knew about the Ammonium Nitrate 2 weeks before the explosion but did nothing about it . Judge Fadi Sawan who is in charge of the investigation charged Diab , former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, and former public works ministers Ghazi Zeaiter and Youssef Finianos with negligence over the explosion . The politicians and sectarian leaders behind the charged politicians attacked the judge and accused him of politicizing the issue and violating the constitution (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, Beirut, Lebanon(Photo by Anwar Amro/AFP)

The charges by Judge Fadi Sawan against caretaker PM and 3 former ministers : Finance Ali Hasan Khalil, Public Works, Yousef Fenianos, and transport, Ghazi Zaiter over negligence in a catastrophic August 4 explosion at Beirut port united the political elite . This prompted Riad Kobaissi, an investigative journalist who has followed corruption at Beirut port to tweet .  “What is happening now can be summed up in four words: Gangs defending each other.


Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s office said Thursday that the outgoing premier’s conscience was clear after he was charged in the Beirut port blast probe.

“He is confident that his hands are clean and that he has handled the Beirut Port blast file in a responsible and transparent manner,” it said in a statement.

“This surprising targeting goes beyond the person to the position per se, and Hassan Diab will not allow the Premiership to be targeted by any party,” it stressed.

In another statement, Diab’s press office accused Judge Fadi Sawan of “violating the constitution” and “bypassing parliament,” describing the caretaker PM as “a man of institutions who respects the law and abides by the constitution.”

PM-designate Saad Hariri on Friday stood in solidarity with caretaker PM Hassan Diab after charges accusing the latter of “negligence” in the Beirut port explosion.

Hariri said the “Lebanese people have the right to know the truth, and to know who allowed the entry of a ship of ammonium nitrate into Beirut port, and who covered for that.”

Hariri spoke from the Grand Serail where he visited Diab in a stand of solidarity.

“Violating the Constitution and charging the premiership post is categorically rejected. I am here today to stand in solidarity with Diab.”

Also , The Consultative Gathering, a Hezbollah backed Sunni group of MPs, on Thursday blasted the Judge’s decision to indict caretaker PM Hassan Diab in the port blast investigation.

In a statement, the Gathering described the move as “suspicious and marred by a lot of light-mindedness and improvisation.”

Voicing support for “the prosecution of everyone without red lines,” the grouping said “the targeting of PM Diab alone in this manner contains a lot of selectivity and spite.”

Sawan “found it easy to harm the PM post seeing as its occupant is not a sectarian lord and we do not tolerate this at all,” the MPs added.

Similarly Ex-PM Najib Miqati on Thursday warned against double standards after Judicial Investigator Judge Fadi Sawan charged Diab

“Justice cannot be achieved through double standards,” Miqati tweeted.

“It is the right of the families of the port blast victims to know the truth and hold accountable those involved in the crime,” he said.

“But how can selectivity be adopted in prosecution while ignoring the president of the republic’s statement that he read reports warning of the presence of dangerous substances at the port,” Miqati added.


Even the Sunni Mufti defended Diab

Abd al-Latif Derian, the Mufti of the Republic, issued a sharp statement in which he rejected any harm to the position of prime minister calling such an action violation of the constitution and a red line


Amal Movement MP and former minister Ali Hassan Khalil a key ally oof parliament speaker Nabih Berri criticized the charges against him and the other Lebanese figures over the deadly port blast

Khalil said the indictments are “inconsistent with constitutional and legal rule.”

Khalil said his parliamentary bloc has committed to “serious work” in order to uncover the truth about the August 4 Beirut port “crime,” and inflict the “harshest” penalties against its perpetrators.

“The indictment does not cohere with any constitutional or legal rule,” he stressed.


Hezbollah on Friday blasted as “politicized” Sawwan’s decision to indict its four allies

It called judge Sawwan to reconsider his decision, saying it lacked a legal and constitutional basis and that the four were being selectively charged.

In a statement, the party said it is “keen to ensure that all measures taken by the investigating judge are far from politics, conform to the provisions of the Constitution, and are made on logical and legal grounds, which we did not find in the recent procedures.”

Hezbollah added that “we categorically reject the absence of unified standards which we believe has politically targeted some individuals while unfairly ignoring others.”

Hezbollah urged the judge to re-approach this important file again and to take legal measures to ensure that the desired truth is reached by unified standards totally far from politicization.”


After Miqati pointed fingers at President Michel Aoun of being the top man responsible for the blast since he knew about the explosive material at least 2 weeks before the explosion , in a preemptive move President Aoun’s media adviser Rafik Chlala said Saturday that President Aoun “did not interfere in the ongoing investigation” in Beirut’s port blast, but requested “immediate action” after being informed of the threat around two weeks before the explosion.

“President Aoun never interfered in the ongoing investigation of the port blast. True he did ask for quick investigation, but that does not mean he intereferd. He never did, not with the investigating judge nor with any judicial authority,” said Chlala.

“A report prepared by the State Security Directorate about amounts of ammonium nitrate stored at the port arrived in the regular mail to the President on July 21,” said Chlala in remarks to VDL radio station.

Adding that Aoun had “requested immediate action from his security and military advisers asking them to follow up the matter with the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council.”

On allegations that the issue was discussed at a meeting between Aoun and the Higher Judicial Council at Baabda Palace, hinting at interference in the case, Chala said the claims are “baseless.”

When asked by reporters following the explosion

Aoun has said he had no direct authority over the port.

Commenting on reaction of the ruling elite with regards to the charges resigned MP Paula Yacoubian said in a statement “the sectarian ruling junta sought once again to prevent justice for the perpetrators

Yacoubian called on Judge Sawan to “complete the task of uncovering the truth in this painful incident, and for justice to reach everyone who neglected, planned and participated in this devastating crime, and not to succumb to political pressures that seek to conceal the case and ignore the perpetrators.” She said all the wounded in the explosion and the families of the the fallen martyrs stand by Judge Sawan in this national issue , until full justice is achieved “

“The judicial investigator would like to reiterate that the investigation is taking place accurately and deliberately, with the necessary respect for the legal and scientific norms that govern this type of crimes,” the Higher Judicial Council said in a rare statement about Judge Sawan and the the investigations.