Judge Bitar charges top Lebanon prosecutor and several top officials

Judge Tarek Bitar who is the chief investigator of the Beirut port explosion has charged Prosecutor-General Ghassan Oueidat ( pictured) and several other judges and top officials with “homicide, arson and sabotage”

Judge Tarek Bitar has charged Prosecutor-General Ghassan Oueidat and judges Ghassan Khoury, Carla Shawwah and Jad Maalouf, a first in the country’s history, a judicial official told AFP on Tuesday. 

The prosecution service, however, quickly pushed back, rejecting the resumption of the probe.

Bitar decided Monday to resume his probe into the devastating August 2020 explosion despite strong political pressure that had led to a suspension of his work for more than a year. 

On Tuesday, he charged eight more figures, including Lebanon’s top prosecutor Oueidat and the three judges, with “homicide, arson and sabotage”, said the judicial official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

Bitar also charged Higher Customs Council chief Asaad Toufaili, and Higher Customs Council member Gracia al-Qazzi, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and State Security chief Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba.

File photo : The northern section of the grain silos damaged two years ago by a deadly blast at the Beirut port has collapsed . The Aug 4, 2020 devastating explosions that rocked Lebanon was the result of the illegal storage of 2750 tons of Ammonium Nitrate at the port area . The silo protected the capital . If it wasn’t for the silos most of Beirut would have been leveled by the explosion. Only about a month’s worth of wheat can now be stored at a time in mills as a result of the blast that destroyed the country’s port, shredded its grain silos , killed over 245 people, injured about 7000 people and left 300, 000 homeless . The Iran backed Hezbollah militant group has been for months trying to get Judge Tarek Bitar who is investigating the blast fired , reportedly because it is concerned about exposing its role in supplying the Syrian government with the explosive chemical for use in its barrel bombs . As Lebanon runs out of wheat Hezbollah is being blamed for starving the Lebanese people for the sake of supplying Syria with the explosive chemical to kill more Syrian civilians.

One of history’s biggest non-nuclear explosions destroyed most of Beirut port and surrounding areas on August 4, 2020, killing more than 245 people and injuring over 7000.

The blast was caused by a fire in a warehouse where a vast stockpile of the industrial chemical ammonium nitrate had been haphazardly stored for years, authorities said.

According to the judicial official, Oueidat had in 2019 overseen a security services investigation into cracks in the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored.

In total, Bitar plans to question 13 suspects next month, including five officials whom Bitar indicted earlier — among them ex-prime minister Hassan Diab and former ministers.

On Tuesday, Bitar scheduled interrogation sessions for Diab and former ministers Ghazi Zoaiter and Nohad Mashnouq, sending notices to their places of residence.

Oueidat rejected the charges against him and other top judicial officials and sent a memo to Bitar telling him that he could not return to work and that his probe is “still suspended as per the law.”

He will also send cables to security agencies asking them not to enforce the notices and release orders issued by Bitar, deeming them illegal, TV networks said.

Claims surfaced Tuesday that Oueidat will press charges against Bitar, but he told The Associated Press that this is “as of now, incorrect.”

Reopening the case Monday after a 13-month suspension, Bitar charged an initial eight suspects and released five others.