Posted in: 01/24/2023 – 11:08Last updated: 01/24/2023 – 11:06
Beirut (AFP) – The judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion case has charged eight people, including four judges, one of whom is the Public Prosecutor, Ghassan Oweidat, according to what a judicial official told AFP on Tuesday, in a procedure that is the first of its kind against a high-ranking judicial authority in the history of Lebanon.
On Monday, Judge Tariq Bitar resumed his investigations after more than a year of suspending them. The allegation came within the framework of public right cases for “murder, abuse, arson and vandalism, all of which are linked to probable intent,” without specific details about the charges against each of the defendants.
On Tuesday, Bitar set dates for the interrogation of 13 people, including the new defendants, on the same charge, during the period from February 6 to February 22 of the same month.
The explosion on August 4, 2020 left more than 215 dead and 6,500 injured. From the beginning, the Lebanese authorities attributed the explosion to the storage of large quantities of ammonium nitrate inside the port without preventive measures, and the outbreak of a fire, the causes of which are unknown. It turned out later that officials at several levels were aware of the dangers of storing the substance and did not move a finger.
A judicial source stated that in 2019, Oweidat oversaw preliminary investigations conducted by the State Security Apparatus about the existence of gaps in Ward No. 12, where a shipment of ammonium nitrate was stored.
Among the defendants are Director General of Public Security Abbas Ibrahim and Director of the State Security Agency Tony Saliba.--
Ibrahim has a good relationship with the political forces, especially Hezbollah, the most prominent political and military player in Lebanon. Saliba is considered close to former President Michel Aoun.-
Bitar claimed more than a year ago against former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and former ministers, including former Ministers of Works Youssef Fenianos and Ghazi Zuaiter, and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. He also requested the interrogation of Ibrahim and Saliba.
The investigation into the explosion was suspended in December 2021 due to lawsuits filed successively by defendants, including current MPs and former ministers, against Bitar. And he collided with political interference that prevented the completion of his mission, with several political forces, most notably Hezbollah, objecting to his work and accusing him of “politicizing” the file, leading to the demand for his resignation.
However, Bitar conducted a legal review that led to his decision to resume investigations despite the lawsuits filed against him, in a decision that sparked widespread legal and political controversy, and it was not clear what its legal and political repercussions would be.
The local newspaper, Al-Akhbar, close to Hezbollah, headlined its article on Tuesday about the resumption of investigations with “Tariq Bitar Jun.”
© 2023 AFP