The investigating judge in the Beirut port explosion, which occurred in August 2020, Tareq Al-Bitar, resumed his work after freezing the judicial investigation for more than a year, according to what Reuters and France Press quoted Lebanese media and a judicial source.
It is not clear yet the basis on which Al-Bitar resumed the investigation.
Al-Bitar resumed his work 13 months after it was suspended due to lawsuits filed successively by a number of defendants against him.
And he decided to release five detainees since the explosion that rocked the capital in August 2020, including two former officials at the port, in addition to prosecuting eight new people, including two high-ranking security officials, the Director General of Public Security, Abbas Ibrahim, and the Director General of State Security, Tony Saliba, according to AFP.
It is noteworthy that a senior Lebanese judicial source told Reuters, Thursday, that two French judges are visiting Beirut this week as part of an investigation into the Beirut port explosion, and they were prevented from seeing documents from the Lebanese investigation because it is still frozen.
Almost a year ago, the Lebanese investigation into the explosion that killed 220 people and destroyed large areas of Beirut was frozen, and political interference paralyzed the investigation judge’s work due to legal appeals submitted by influential politicians in the country.
A French diplomatic source said that two French judges came to Beirut as part of an investigation opened by the French Public Prosecutor’s Office because of the presence of French citizens among the victims.
The source said that Al-Bitar told the two visiting judges at the time that he would not be able to exchange information until he was allowed to resume his investigation. The Lebanese source added that he will be able to exchange information that is not subject to the rules of confidentiality once the investigation is resumed.--
Despite the devastation caused by the explosion, and that it is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, judicial investigations have not resulted in any senior official being held accountable.-
The explosion occurred because hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate were stored at the port in 2013.
Lebanese efforts to investigate the explosion faced strong political opposition from the ruling factions.
Investigating judge Tariq Al-Bitar sought to interrogate senior officials, including prominent figures in the Amal Movement, which is led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Hassan Diab at the time, and General Director of Public Security Major General Abbas Ibrahim.
All of them, including former ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zuaiter, have denied any wrongdoing and said they enjoy immunity and that any cases against them must be heard by a special court for presidents and ministers.
The suspects flooded the courts last year with more than 20 cases seeking to remove Al-Bitar, claiming that he was biased and committed “serious mistakes”. Ambiguity has shrouded the fate of the investigation since early 2022 due to the retirement of the judges of a court that must decide many complaints against Al-Bitar before he can continue to perform his work.
The Court of Cassation overthrew Al-Bitar’s predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawan, in 2021 after high-level political pressure.