Beirut: The port blast seems a mystery destined to remain unsolved

Lebanon LebanonWe know little about the mysterious explosion of the port of Beirut, similar to a mushroom cloud that devastated entire neighborhoods of the Lebanese capital. However, more than a year has passed. Official US sources, requests for assistance like other authorized sources, would have ascertained, never denied, that in the port of Beirut, there was not all the ammonium nitrate that was confiscated and superficially kept in the commercial port since then. About half of it was left. What about the rest? What use has been made of a seized substance?

The day of the explosion at the port of Beirut, when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up, causing 217 deaths, over 7,000 injured, and 300,000 displaced, marked one of the bloodiest and most shameful pages in Lebanon’s recent history. At least ten times in the previous six years, the customs authorities, the armed forces, the security services, and the judiciary had warned of the enormous risks associated with the presence of explosive chemicals in the port area of the Lebanese capital.

Then, finally, neglect and contempt for human lives caused the massacre of August 4, 2020. But what has happened since then has added shame to shame. Right from the start, the authorities tried to obstruct the investigation. They removed Fadi Sawan, the first magistrate in charge of the study, sent armed officers and civilians to beat the victims’ families who protested in front of parliament. In the end, they achieved their goal: to stop the investigation.

The former Lebanese interior minister, Nouhad al-Mashnouq, asked his lawyers to ask the Court of Appeal to remove the magistrate who replaced Sawwan, judge Tarek Bitar. Now the Court is called to decide on the matter. The former minister of public works, Youssef Fenianos, also made a similar request. Meanwhile, the recently replaced government ministers hope that the magistrate has been suspended and with him all hearings. The ministers had always resorted to legal immunities in order not to appear before the magistrate. As ministers in office, the law allows them to do so. But now that he is no longer in office, the situation has changed

The first magistrate was taken out of the Cassation Court for bias, as the explosion had damaged his home. The second, Tarek Bitar, was also accused of political partisanship. The reason? He had demanded that former prime minister Hassan Diab, three former ministers, and now parliamentarians be lifted from prosecutions and dared to summon them for questioning.

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