More than a year after he was excluded from following up on the Beirut port explosion file, the judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion case, Judge Tariq Al-Bitar, returned; To resume his work with resounding decisions, and he sued eight people, including four judges, one of whom was the cassation public prosecutor, Ghassan Oweidat, according to what a judicial official told Agence France-Presse, today, Tuesday, in a procedure that is the first of its kind against a high-ranking judicial authority in the history of Lebanon.
Yesterday, Monday, Judge Tariq Al-Bitar resumed his investigations. He charged the eight people with “crimes of murder, harm, arson and vandalism, all of which are related to probable intent.”
Today, Al-Bitar set dates for the interrogation of 13 people, including the new defendants, on the same charge, during the period between February 6 and 22 of the same month, and it was reported that the notifications were sent to the Public Prosecution Office of Cassation, to be requested for investigation next week.
In addition, Oweidat sent a letter to Al-Bitar, in which he said: “Your hand is bound by law, and no decision has been issued to accept or reject your response, or to transfer or not transfer the case before you.”
And local media had revealed, earlier, that the Public Prosecution Office at the Court of Cassation had received summonses issued this morning by Al-Bitar for the Beirut Port crime, with the following names: former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, former Minister Nihad Al-Machnouk, General Jean Kahwaji, Brigadier General Camille Daher, Major General Tony Saliba, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Brigadier General Asaad al-Tufaili, Gracia al-Qazi and a brigadier general from the Izz al-Din family, in addition to the name of a tenth whose identity has not yet been known.
After studying the requests for release, Al-Bitar decided to release 5 detainees in the port file out of 17, without bail, while preventing them from traveling.
In addition, the local media indicated that the Public Prosecution Office at the Court of Cassation will deal with the decision issued by Judge Al-Bitar “as if it did not exist,” which means that it will not implement the release decision or the prosecution’s decision. Consequently, Minister of Justice Henry Khoury transmitted a copy of the extracts of the judicial investigator’s decision to the Supreme Judicial Council.
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 told Agence France-Presse that Aweidat supervised in 2019 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 the Director General of Public Security, Abbas Ibrahim, and the Director of the State Security Agency, Tony Saliba.
Ibrahim has a good relationship with the political forces, especially “Hezbollah”, and he is considered a close Saliba to former President Michel Aoun.
Al-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 Minister of Finance 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.