| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

Judge Tarek Bitar hears testimony of 4 witnesses over Beirut port case

Judge Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator into the Beirut port explosion, held on Monday further investigations over the case and heard the testimony of four witnesses who are civilians.

Judge Bitar is due to hear the testimony of other witnesses this week.

“Bitar has received replies to some of the requests for judicial assistance he had sent abroad,” sources with knowledge of the matter told Sawt Beirut International (SBI), without disclosing their content.

Families of the ones who were killed in the massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital last August gathered on Friday in the vicinity of the Beirut port 10 months after the tragic incident.

Ibrahim Hoteit, the spokesman for the families, warned that “from now on, no companies, institutions, investors or reconstruction will be allowed at the Port of Beirut before the truth is revealed.”

“Lawmakers must lift the immunity of anyone accused in the case, and any bloc that does not vote in favor of this matter will be our enemy,” Hoteit noted, saying “a large number of the victims’ families were dissatisfied with the strategy that Judge Tarek Bitar has been working on and therefore, he modified it.”

“August 4 must be declared a National Day of Mourning,” he added.

The cause of the Beirut port explosion needs two more months to be established, the lead investigator into the probe said on Thursday, days after receiving fresh evidence from a French report.

Speaking at a meeting with journalists at the Justice Palace, Judge Tarek Bitar said he needed two more months to verify the cause of the explosion to which there are 3 potential theories.

“The first is the possibility of a mistake in the welding process that led to the start of a fire, which caused the blast; the second is that an intentional fire was caused which led to the disaster; and the third theory is that the explosion was caused by a targeted air rocket attack.”

On August 4, 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.