Beirut Port Blast Judge Charges Former Government Officials
Beirut Port in the aftermath of the explosion, Aug. 9, 2020. (Mahdi Shojaeian/Wikimedia Commons)

Beirut Port Blast Judge Charges Former Government Officials

The judge in the investigation into the explosion at the Beirut Port that left more than 220 people dead and damaged much of Lebanon’s capital city, who returned to work after a 13-month hiatus, has charged former prime minister Hassan Diab, former interior minister Nouhad Machnouk and former public works minister Ghazi Zeaiter with homicide with probable intent, Reuters first reported on Tuesday.

Judge Tarek Bitar, who was forced to stop the investigation some 13 months ago after politicians that he placed under investigation filed complaints against him, had returned to work on Monday. On the day he returned to work, Bitar ordered the release of five people detained in the case and charged eight others. Among those charged are Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the former general director of the Lebanese General Security, and Major General Antoine Saliba, the current general director, as well as Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat, former army commander Jean Kahwaji and other current and former security and judicial officials.

Bitar began working again after he issued a legal interpretation that allows him to continue the investigation despite the complaints against him. Hizbullah also has demanded that Bitar remove himself from the probe. The public prosecutor of the Court of Cassation reportedly is considering prosecuting Bitar for “usurpation of power.” The court has not agreed to enforce his summons for the officials he has charged.

Last week, 12 relatives of port blast victims were detained on charges of rioting, vandalism and damaging government offices following a violent protest inside the Justice Ministry in Beirut calling for accountability in the explosion.

 

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