Judge Bitar forced to suspend probe of Beirut Port blast for 3rd time

Judge Tarek Bitar was appointed lead investigator into the Beirut Port blast ( background ) after the removal of his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawwan in February. The background of Bitar’s picture shows the huge silos of Beirut Port that exploded on Aug 4 , 2020. killing some 218 people , injured about 7000 and left 300, 000 homeless after 2,750 Tons of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years. , reportedly for use by the Syrian regime in its barrel bombs against the civilians in Syria. Former PM Hassan Diab and president Michel Aoun were informed about the explosive chemical 2 weeks before the explosion. but neither did anything about it . Aoun said he is not responsible for the port and ExPM Diab reportedly offered to go to the port to inspect the material but Hezbollah security chief Wafic Safa reportedly told him not to go . Diab’s former government , the presidency and the parliament leadership were controlled by Hezbollah

Beirut (AFP) – The Lebanese judge leading investigations into last year’s Beirut port blast was forced to stop work Thursday over a lawsuit filed by an ex-minister who is allied with the Iranian b asked militant group , whom he had summoned for interrogation. 

Tarek Bitar was informed of a “lawsuit submitted by former public works minister Youssef Fenianos… which forced him to pause the probe until a ruling is issued”, a court official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

It is the third time that Bitar has had to suspend his probe in the face of lawsuits filed by former ministers suspected of negligence over the August 2020 explosion.

The total number of lawsuits filed against Bitar now stands at 15, according to judicial sources. 

The latest comes amid a campaign led by the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah demanding Bitar’s replacement over allegations of “bias” that have been widely dismissed by rights groups and families of blast victims.

The Shiite group’s representatives in government have said they will boycott cabinet meetings until it takes a clear stand on demands to replace Bitar. 

The cabinet, as a result, has failed to hold a single session in three weeks.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday condemned attempts to force his government to intervene in judicial affairs, in a thinly veiled criticism of Hezbollah.

“We have tried as much as possible to keep the Beirut blast probe under the purview of the judiciary and we have rejected any kind of (political) interference,” Mikati told a news conference.

Human rights groups and victims’ relatives fear the repeated suspensions are a prelude to Bitar’s removal, which would further derail the official inquiry into Lebanon’s worst peace-time tragedy.

Bitar’s predecessor, Fadi Sawan, was also forced to suspend his probe for the same reason before he was finally removed in February, in a move widely condemned as political interference by Hezbollah.




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