Lebanon: new magistrate heads probe on port's explosion

Tareq Bitar: 'I will not let justice be diverted'

22 February, 12:21

    (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 22 - A new Lebanese judge, Tareq Bitar, is the head of the investigation on the explosion at Beirut's port on August 4 in which over 200 people died. The appointment of the 46-year-old magistrate, who already headed the criminal court of Beirut and hails from northern Lebanon, comes just a few days after the removal of Fadi Sawan, the judge who had headed the investigation since the beginning.

    Sawan was removed over the past few days after the supreme court accepted the appeal filed by two former ministers, who were formally accused of being responsible, together with the outgoing premier Hassan Diab, of the disaster caused by the explosion of 2,750 tons of nitrate ammonium stocked for seven years in the port's hangar, In the port's explosion on August 4, 2020, 204 people died, over 6,000 were injured and 300,000 lost their home.

    Talking to the media in Beirut, judge Tareq Bitar assured that he did not intend to give in to pressure during his investigation: "I will go where the law and rights take me", he was quoted as saying by the newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour. "Nothing will be able to stop me. I will not let justice be deviated".

    So far the investigation has led to the arrest of 25 people including port officials and low and middle-ranking members of the security services. In December, Premier Diab and three former ministers were formally charged of "neglect" and "negligence". None of these high-ranking officials have been formally questioned.

    Over the last few days groups of activists and family members of the victims staged protests in front of Beirut's tribunal, demanding a UN-sponsored international investigation. (ANSAmed).

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