Lebanon former premier Hassan Diab fled to the US to avoid interrogation

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After 13 months, Lebanon finally had a new government. Yesterday, the former premier Hassan Diab, under investigation for responsibility in the Beirut port explosion on August 4, 2020, in which 200 people died, fled to the United States to avoid being interrogated by the Beirut prosecutor’s office, owner of the investigation into the explosion. “Diab fled to the United States, officially to visit his children,” Lebanese TV Al Jadid (NewTV) said today, confirming what was previously reported by other Beirut media. To be questioned, Judge Tareq Bitar had repeatedly invited Hassan Diab.

The former premier was on the list of nine-strong institutional personalities, investigated with the accusation of not having done enough to avoid the disaster despite being aware of the presence, in the port of Beirut, of the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. With the announcement of the formation of the new government, led by Najib Miqati, the institutional immunity that Hassan Diab enjoyed as outgoing premier has also ended. At this point, he had to present for questioning between five days. But, according to Lebanese media reports, Diab left for the United States without the Lebanese border police preventing the former prime minister from leaving the country.

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In early July, Hassan Diab was indicted along with three former ministers. According to the same source, for the subsequent interrogation scheduled for September 20, Judge Tarek Bitar ordered the security forces to arrest Hassan Diab. The explosion of August 4, 2020, of several hundred tons of ammonium nitrate, stored for years in the port – “without precaution” by the government’s admission – left 214 dead and over 6,500 injured, entire devastating neighborhoods of the capital. Also in July, Judge Bitar asked Parliament to lift the immunity of three deputies who have held ministerial posts “to file charges for potential murderous intent” and “negligence and misconduct.”

Leaders accused of having gone out of their way to torpedo the investigation

Parliament has refused to lift the immunity of the parliamentarians concerned, while the interior minister has not allowed Tarek Bitar to question the director of general security Abbas Ibrahim. The ruling class is accused of having done everything to torpedo investigations and avoid accusations. Thursday’s decision by Judge Bitar, accused of “politicizing” the investigation, in particular by the powerful pro-Iranian Shiite party Hezbollah, comes in the aftermath of a letter sent by the Council of Ministers arguing “constitutional obstacles” to justify Hassan Diab’s decision not to attend the interrogation session.

After categorically rejecting an international investigation, the Lebanese authorities dismissed the first judge in charge of the case, Fadi Sawan, after indicting senior officials. Hassan Diab resigned a few days after the explosion but has since continued to assume his duties as prime minister responsible for managing current affairs due to the failure to form a new government in this country amid political and economic crises.

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