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Judge Charged With Mishandling Beirut Port Blast Probe

The judge investigating the Beirut port explosion, who renewed his probe earlier this week after a 13-month hiatus, has been charged by Lebanon’s prosecutor general with mishandling the investigation, who ordered the release of those arrested in connection with the blast in August 2020 that left more than 220 people dead and damaged much of Lebanon’s capital city.

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.  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.

Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat on Wednesday also issued a travel ban against Bitar and a decision saying the judge did not have the authority to resume his investigation. Oweidat was one of the people Bitar charged this week with involvement in the explosion.

“I will continue my probe until I issue an indictment,” Bitar told Reuters on Wednesday. He also said he would not show up for an interrogation session on Thursday ordered by Oweidat.

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.