Lebanese judge blames senior officials for port blast

BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese judge investigating last year’s massive explosion in Beirut port announced on Friday that he intends to prosecute senior politicians and former and current leaders security in the case, and asked for permission to prosecute them, state media reported.

Judge Tarek Bitar confirmed the accusations made by his predecessor against outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab and summoned the prime minister for questioning, the national news agency reported. He hasn’t set a date.

Bitar also asked the government and the Interior Ministry for permission to interrogate two of Lebanon’s most prominent security chiefs – the head of the General Security Directorate, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, and the Head of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba.

In addition, he asked Parliament to lift the immunity of two lawmakers indicted by his predecessor and a former Minister of the Interior. Bitar also lodged a complaint against the former army commander, General Jean Kahwaji and the former head of military intelligence, the brigadier. General Kameel Daher, along with two other retired intelligence generals.

The move – two days before the 11th anniversary of the explosion – was a bold move by Bitar, whose predecessor was removed from office following legal challenges by two of the lawmakers he named in the case.

Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on August 4, killing 211 people, injuring more than 6,000 and devastating them. neighboring neighborhoods.

The explosion was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions on record and the most destructive incident in Lebanon.

“Judge Tarek Bitar has made a very courageous decision,” Lebanese lawyer and activist Nizar Saghieh wrote on Twitter. “It is reopening the battle for (lifting) immunities against influential people. “

It was not immediately clear whether Diab would agree to be questioned by Bitar, after refusing to be questioned by the former prosecutor last December. ANI said Bitar made his decision after hearing witnesses.

He formally asked the Parliament to lift the immunity of three legislators: the former Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, the Minister of Public Works Ghazi Zeiter and the former Minister of the Interior Nouhad Machnouk. He also asked the bar for permission to question former Minister of Public Works Youssef Fenianos.

ANI said they would be questioned about possible intentional crimes of murder and neglect. The families of the victims and survivors of the explosion accused the ruling political class of corruption and negligence which led to the explosion of ammonium nitrates,

Bitar was appointed to lead the investigation in February following the impeachment of his predecessor following legal challenges from Khalil and Zeiter.

In mid-April, Bitar ordered the release of six people, including security officers, who had been detained for months. Among those released was an officer who had written a detailed warning to senior officials before the explosion about the dangers of equipment stored in the port.


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