On August 5, 2020 a massive explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. 211 people were killed , 6500 Injured after 2,755 Tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years, reportedly for use by the Syrian regime in its barrel bombs.
The shipment was reportedly confiscated by Badri Daher a close supporter of President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil .
The shipment arrived at a time when Syria was surrendering its chemical weapons to a UN backed organization for destruction and was avoiding being seen with new chemical weapons
Aoun knew officially about the Ammonium Nitrate 2 weeks before the explosion but did nothing about it . He , along with his Hezbollah allies refused an international investigation but promised a local investigation that will bring the culprits to justice in less than a week .
Judge Fadi Sawan was appointed several months later to investigate the explosion . He initially charged caretaker PM Hassan Diab , former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, and former public works ministers Ghazi Zeaiter and Youssef Finianos with negligence over the explosion . The politicians behind the charged politicians attacked the judge and accused him of politicizing the issue. The investigation was halted for months
After the investigation was reactivated Judge Sawan issued an arrest warrant for Finianos for refusing to appear for questioning . This prompted the court of Cassation to remove Judge Sawan from the investigation which brings the investigation back to Square one . LBCI reported that the Court of Cassation headed by Judge Jamal Hajjar decided to transfer the port blast investigation file to a different judge from Fadi Sawwan.
FBI which was asked to help by he Lebanese authorities was not reportedly authorized by the Lebanese authorities to reveal the contents of its report , but sources familiar with its findings reported that only 500 of the 2755 tons exploded . The sources added that had the sole amount exploded , nothing would have remained of Beirut.
According to the reports Hezbollah shipped to the Syrian regime for use in the barrel bombs the bulk of the shipment . It also shipped some of it to its cells in Germany, UK, Cyprus and Lebanon .
Several smaller explosions were reported following the massive explosion .
52 containers of explosive chemicals remained at the port following the explosion . A German company was hired to remove and dispose of these containers . The owner of the company said Beirut was lucky , since if the 52 containers exploded it would have been like another bomb as Aug 5 explosion for Beirut
Rights activists condemned Thursday’s ruling as the latest example of an entrenched political class placing itself above the law.
Sawwan’s removal “makes a mockery of justice and is an insult to the victims of the blast,” Human Rights Watch researcher Aya Majzoub said.
The ruling showed “politicians are not subject to the rule of law,” she added.
– ‘Charade needs to end’ –
Majzoub said: “More than six months later, we are back to square one.”
“This charade needs to end… We need an international, independent investigation as soon as possible.”
Lawyer and activist Nizar Saghieh said he needed to see the full court decision, but feared the worst.
“By refusing to be held accountable, the ministers and political class are drawing a red line in the investigation,” he told AFP.
He said it was a typical pattern in Lebanon that “prevents any justice from being achieved.”
The probe into Lebanon’s worst peace-time disaster has led to the detention of 25 people, from maintenance workers to the port’s customs director, but not a single politician.
It has focused mainly on who was to blame for the fertilizer being left to languish unsafely at the port for more than six years, not how the ammonium nitrate ended up in Beirut.
On Monday, however, Sawwan requested information from Lebanese security forces on three Syrian businessman thought to be behind the procurement of the fertilizer shipment that arrived on a dilapidated ship from Georgia in 2013.