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Beirut

A picture taken on 9 August 2020, shows graffiti on the wall of a bridge overlooking the port of Beirut, the site of the explosion which killed at least 200 people , injured 6500 and left 300, 000 homeless 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 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, Beirut, Lebanon(Photo by Anwar Amro/AFP)

The Lebanese judge investigating the huge explosion that rocked Beirut in August has suspended the probe after two ministers he charged requested he be removed, judicial sources said Thursday.

Fadi Sawan on December 10 issued charges against caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers over the August 4 blast that disfigured Lebanon’s capital.

The four were charged with “negligence and causing death to hundreds and injuries to thousands more” in one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

Among them are former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former public works minister Ghazi Zaiter, who have since accused Sawan of violating the constitution.

Lebanon’s top Cassation Court is now expected to rule on their request for Sawan to be removed from his post. 

“Until then, all investigation proceedings are suspended,” a senior court judicial official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Diab has also refused to appear in front of the judge on similar grounds. 

Lebanon’s politicians have rallied around the argument that the indictment of a minister should be submitted to a vote in parliament.

Diab, who resigned in the wake of the explosion, already testified before Sawan in September.

The huge stock of ammonium nitrate that ignited at Beirut port had been stored there for years when Diab took office almost exactly a year ago.

The fact that little light has been shed on the circumstances that led to Lebanon’s worst peacetime disaster nearly four months after the blast has caused outrage.

It is also fuelling distrust among international donors, whose support is much needed if Lebanon is to stand a chance of surviving its deepest ever economic crisis.

© 2020 AFP

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