Judge Tarek Bitar resumes role in investigating port blast

FILE – This file photo shows the towering grain silos that were gutted in the massive August 2020 explosion at the port that killed more than 218 people , wounded over 7,000, destroyed a large section of the capital and left 300, 000 homeless in Beirut, Lebanon. The lead judge investigating Lebanon’s massive port explosion issued an arrest warrant Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, for Youssef Fenianos, the former minister of Public Works who failed to appear for questioning Fenianos is one of several former pro Hezbollah government officials who have declined to appear before investigating judge Tarek Bitar and filed lawsuits against him . Hezbollah and its allies have been trying to get rid of Judge Bitar and were able to suspend his investigation . a move that outraged the relatives of the victims of the blast .

BEIRUT, Oct 4 – Lebanon’s court of cassation ruled on Monday that the lead judge investigating the disastrous Beirut port blast would be kept on the case after it rejected two legal complaints filed against him by several former ministers, sources said.

The probe into the Aug. 4 2020 explosion, that killed over 200 people, was in danger of stalling for the second time this year after a complaint filed by Nohad Machnouk, a former interior minister Bitar wanted to question on suspicion of negligence and maladministration, froze the probe.

Machnouk’s claim and another similar complaint filed by former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeaiter were rejected on Monday, the sources said and each was fined 800, 000 Lebanese pounds

Judge Tarek Bitar was appointed lead investigator into the Beirut Port blast ( background ) after the removal of his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawwan in February. “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.

Legal complaints against Bitar had followed a smear campaign by Lebanon’s political class against him and a warning by a senior official of the powerful heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah group that he would be removed. 

Bitar would have been the second judge to be removed on such claims after his predecessor judge Fadi Sawan was removed in February through a similar legal filing.

Bitar has sought to question several senior politicians allied to Hezbollah including members of the Shi’ite Amal Movement, but has not tried to query any members of Hezbollah.

Efforts to question former and serving state officials, including the prime minister at the time of the blast, ex-ministers and senior security officials on suspicion of negligence have been repeatedly blocked.

Families of the victims of the blast, that destroyed large swathes of the capital Beirut, are furious that more than a year on no one has been held accountable.




2 responses to “Judge Tarek Bitar resumes role in investigating port blast”

  1. Lebanese Army: “We located hidden bags of ammonium nitrate at a gas station in the town of Arsal” https://t.me/abualiexpress/31353

    1. About 28 tons

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