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Families slam plans for 2nd judge to probe Beirut port blast

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BEIRUT — Dozens of family members of the victims of Beirut’s huge port blast protested Wednesday towards the judiciary’s plan to call a second investigative choose, calling the transfer an try by the nation’s political class to forestall justice into one of many world’s largest non-nuclear explosions.

The investigation into the blast, which killed 218 folks, injured hundreds and brought about billions of {dollars} in harm has been blocked since December by Lebanon’s political powers. That’s after three former Cupboard ministers filed authorized challenges towards investigative choose Tarek Bitar.

Now, Justice Minister Henri Khoury and the Greater Judicial Council, Lebanon’s high judicial physique, are wanting into naming a second choose to launch some port and customs officers in addition to employees who’ve been detained with out prices for the reason that blast.

“What is occurring is an try to take away the case from choose Bitar,” Youssef Diab, a Lebanese journalist who covers authorized affairs instructed The Related Press in the course of the protest exterior the workplace of the justice minister. “By naming a second investigative choose to approve the releases, it implies that choose Bitar has been ripped of his powers.”

Many blame the tragedy on the Lebanese authorities’s longtime corruption, however the elite’s decades-old lock on energy has ensured they’re untouchable. The Aug. 4, 2020 explosions occurred when a whole bunch of tons of extremely explosive ammonium nitrate, a fabric utilized in fertilizers, detonated on the port.

It later emerged that the ammonium nitrate had been shipped to Lebanon in 2013 and saved improperly at a port warehouse ever since. Senior political and safety officers knew of its presence however did nothing.

Bitar has been the the topic of harsh criticism by Lebanon’s highly effective Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah known as Bitar’s investigation a “large mistake” and mentioned it was biased. He requested authorities to take away Bitar.

Bitar is the second choose to take the case. The primary choose, Fadi Sawwan, was pressured out after complaints of bias by two Cupboard ministers. if the identical occurs to Bitar, it might be the ultimate blow to the investigation.

Lebanon’s factional political leaders, who’ve divvied up energy amongst themselves for many years, closed ranks to thwart any accountability.

Diab, the journalist, mentioned that Bitar ought to have been allowed to renew his work to difficulty the releases himself then proceed the investigation.

Some unbiased legislators issued an announcement calling the transfer by the justice minister to call a second choose “a deadly blow to the function of investigative choose Tarek Bitar.” The 13 legislators vowed not to surrender and to make use of all means out there to maintain the investigation going.

Bitar charged 4 former senior authorities officers with intentional killing and negligence that led to the deaths of dozens of individuals. He additionally charged a number of high safety officers within the case.

“As we speak this can be a small a part of this ridiculous situation that began two years in the past,” mentioned Michael Awad whose 3-year-old granddaughter, Alexandra Naggear, was killed within the blast.

“We’re with these people who find themselves harmless contained in the jail. However I believe additionally as victims of the households, we’re on the highest of the record of justice,” Awad mentioned. “They need to begin with us first after which they will proceed with that with no matter they need.”



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