Lebanese MPs paralyze immunity at port blast probe | News about the Beirut explosion


Lebanese lawmakers held an investigation on Friday Explosion of the port of Beirut, less than a month before their first birthday, demanding more evidence before lifting immunity for ex-ministers who want to be questioned.

Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded at the port of Beirut on August 4, killing more than 200 people, injuring thousands and destroying areas of the capital.

Subsequently, it was learned that officials knew that the explosive substance had been stored in the port for years.

Earlier this month, the main judge in the case, Tareq Bitar, said he had demanded this parliament lift immunity of former finance minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former public works minister Ghazi Zaiter and former interior minister Nohad Machnouk.

Bitar said he was examining possible charges of “probable intent to murder” and “negligence.”

Bitar’s request to interrogate Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of the powerful general security agency, was rejected by interim Interior Minister Mohamed Fahmy in a letter to the justice minister.

In a statement, Ibrahim said he was subject to the law like all Lebanese, but the investigation should be done “very far from narrow political considerations.”

Vice President Elie Ferzli said the parliament’s administration and justice committee met on Friday and decided to “request all available evidence in the investigation, as well as all documents showing suspicion.”

He said the committee would meet again once it received a response, to decide whether or not to waive immunity.

Lawyer and activist Nizar Saghieh said the committee’s request went against the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature and “violated the confidentiality of the investigation.”

“They’re just trying to buy time,” he accused.

Speaking in Beirut, Ayman Raad, a lawyer representing one of the victims of the blast, told Al Jazeera that Lebanese law stipulates that the judge investigating the blast must obtain permission to interrogate an official. public of their superiors.

“The interior minister refused to allow the judge to question General Ibrahim, saying that in his opinion there was no guilt committed by the general,” Raad said.

“The legal options are … for the Attorney General to ask the Chief Justice to override the permission that the Minister denied and to authorize the Chief Investigator to question the General. That is what has been asked now .

“But because of the politicization of the legal system … I don’t see that happening anytime soon,” he said.


The hashtag #lift_immunity_now began to spread in Lebanon as protesters gathered at the residence of parliament speaker Nabih Berri, where the committee meeting took place.

“Immunity must be lifted immediately,” said Ibrahim Hoteit, a representative of the families of those killed in the blast.

The activist, who lost her brother in the disaster, said holding back the decision was “shameful, given the size of the crime.”

Protesters turned to the Interior Ministry after the media reported that the interim minister had not allowed Bitar to interrogate top intelligence official Abbas Ibrahim over the blast.

There was no statement from the minister’s office.

Ibrahim said he was “not above the law,” but urged that no “political calculation” be made.

Outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab has been charged in the investigation and Bitar has called him in for questioning.

The judge also said he was considering questioning former Development Minister Yusef Fenianos.

Defense groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for a UN investigation into the blast.

Bitar became the main investigator of the blast after his predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawan, was fired in February following requests from two former ministers he had accused of the blast.

Sawan had accused three former ministers and outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab of negligence. But they refused to be questioned as suspects, accusing him of exceeding his powers.

Source link