| 16 June 2024, Sunday |

Judge Tarek Bitar examines Beirut port blast file

Judge Tarek Bitar, a newly appointed judicial investigator into the Beirut port blast probe, continued on Friday to examine the file and the investigations that have been carried out by his predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawan, over the course of six months.

On August 4th, 2020, a large explosion, caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate, occurred at the Port of Beirut, killing at least 200 people, injuring more than 6,000 and rendering 300,000 others homeless.

Large sections of the port and its infrastructure were destroyed, including most of Beirut’s grain reserves, and billions of dollars in damages were inflicted across the city.

“Bitar will need two additional weeks to finish studying the file and develop his strategy for the investigation which he will be holding with individuals to be summoned for interrogation,” judicial sources said, noting that he will put a list of their names.

“Judge Bitar will not start from scratch as reported, but rather will resume his work from the stage reached by Judge Sawan and based on the information that has been amassed by the latter over six months,” the same sources told Sawt Beirut International.

When asked about how Judge Bitar will be dealing with the charges filed by Sawan against caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and the three ex-ministers, Ali Hassan Khalil, Ghazi Zeaiter and Youssef Fenianos, the sources said “the judicial investigator will enforce the law and the legal jurisprudence in this regard.”

“No one should be above the law and everyone should be held accountable,” they added.

Families of people killed in the Beirut port explosion last August protested last week after a court removed the lead investigator into the blast in a severe setback to their campaign to hold those in power to account.

Judge Fadi Sawan charged 3 ex-ministers and the outgoing prime minister with negligence over the explosion in December, but the four did not appear for questioning and accused him of overstepping his powers.