| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

Minister of Justice names Judge Younes as judicial investigator – sources

Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of Justice, Marie Claude Najm, has named Judge Samer Younes, as a judicial investigator to substitute for Judge Fadi Sawan, sources told Sawt Beirut International on Friday.

The Higher Judicial Council will reject the appointment of Judge Younes, the same sources added, saying this will lead the minister to name another judge.

Najm had proposed the name of Judge Younes last August before appointing Judge Sawan, but the Higher Judicial Council rejected him back then.

The Higher Judicial Council held on Friday a meeting under the chairmanship of its President, Judge Suhail Abboud, to discuss the Court of Cassation’s decision to remove the judicial investigator, Judge Fadi Sawan, from the Beirut port probe.

The Council tackled the selection of a substitute judge to assume this task in agreement with the caretaker Minister of Justice, Marie Claude Najm.

“The Higher Judicial Council decided to keep its sessions open until a decision is issued to select the new judicial investigator and hand the file over to him,” the National News Agency reported.

The Court of Cassation ruling over a request to transfer the Beirut Port explosion case from Judge Fadi Sawan to another magistrate upheld this procedure on Thursday, ordering to transfer the case to a judge who shall be appointed in accordance with article 360 of the Criminal Procedure, the National News Agency reported.

The Criminal Court of Cassation was chaired by Judge Jamal Al-Hajjar.

The two ex-ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter had requested to transfer the case from Judge Sawan to another magistrate, judicial sources reported, adding that Sawan will be summoning them as defendants if the court rejects their request.

The decision rendered by the Court of Cassation has infuriated families of victims who said it showed that the state would never hold powerful men to account.

Families of the victims gathered at Beirut’s Justice Palace on Thursday night to protest against Sawan’s removal from the probe. Clad in black, they cradled photos of their dead loved ones and held picket signs that read: “Where are the investigation results?”

More than 200 people perished in the August blast when a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, stored unsafely for years, detonated at the capital’s port. Thousands were injured and entire neighborhoods destroyed.