BEIRUT: A probe into the Beirut port blast was frozen again on Monday when former interior minister Nuhad Mashnouq who is wanted for questioning as a suspect filed a lawsuit questioning the lead investigator’s neutrality, a judicial source said.
Former public works minister Youssef Fenianos filed last Wednesday a similar lawsuit, citing “legitimate suspicion” over Bitar’s handling of the case.
The Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast killed hundreds, injured thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless after destroying large swathes of the capital Beirut. It was caused by a large quantity of chemicals stored at a warehouse unsafely for over 6 years.
Judge Tarek Bitar was appointed lead investigator after the removal of his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawwan in February under similar circumstances
Sawwan, was removed by the Court of Cassation after similar charges were filed against him by senior government officials.
Both judges accused Mashnouq, Fenianos , former PM Hassan Diab and two other former ministers of intentional killing and negligence .
The Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group has been leading the attacks against Judge Bitar .
“It is outrageous that Lebanese politicians think they can just replace a judge every time he tries to hold them accountable until one is appointed that is to their liking,” said Aya Majzoub, a Lebanon researcher from Human Rights Watch.
More than a year after the blast , there are still no answers to what triggered the explosion, and no one has been held accountable. Rights groups and local media revealed that most state officials knew of the presence in the port of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers, that had been improperly stored there for years.
President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah refused an international investigation of the blast. Aoun promised that the culprits will be found and tried within a week but none has been tried over a year later .
This is truly “shameful for Lebanon”, one observer told Ya Libnan. None of the corrupt ruling political class wants the people to know the truth about the most devastating non nuclear explosion ever
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