World news

Lebanon in the judicial imbroglio

Silenced for thirteen months, Judge Tarek Bitar made a remarkable comeback on Monday January 23, announcing that he would resume his investigations into the double explosion that occurred at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020. That day, at 6:07 p.m. hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, stored carelessly in a dilapidated hangar in the port of Beirut, had exploded, causing more than 230 deaths and 6,500 injuries and ravaging the east of the capital.

“Ending the Impasse”

Targeted by around forty appeals for relinquishment – ​​still pending due to the paralysis of the judiciary – Tarek Bitar had been forced to interrupt his investigation in October 2021. While the investigation had so far been polluted by intense political interference, the man whom many Lebanese have erected as a hero in the fight against impunity seems determined to bring the investigation to a conclusion. On Monday, he said he relied on “legal studies” carried out for a month, in a desire to “to end the stalemate”.

In Lebanon, the timing and the ” way “ of this surprise return question. His decision comes a week after the judge’s meeting with a French judicial delegation, an investigation also being carried out in France following the death of two French nationals on August 4. Dismissing any French pressure, Tarek Bitar said he was following “his duty and his conscience”. “What he did is unusual and comes a bit late,” however, believes Paul Morcos, director of the Justicia Foundation. “Even if his decision is based on fairness and justice, one cannot imagine a judge who is beyond the reach of any legal proceedings and who has absolute power. »

Charges without police relay

In the process, Judge Bitar on Monday indicted the very influential head of General Security, General Ibrahim Abbas, considered close to Hezbollah, as well as the head of State Security, Tony Saliba, for “potential homicidal intent”. The latter had sent a report on July 20, 2020 to President Michel Aoun and the then Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, warning of the danger of a “major explosion”. The two men were already in the sights of the judge who wanted to question them before his suspension, but he had encountered the refusal of their supervisory authorities.

These two indictments were followed by others the next day, also for “homicidal” : they target former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, former ministers, judges and a former army chief. All would have known at some point of the presence of ammonium nitrate in the port. Also pinned, the Attorney General of the Republic, Ghassan Oueidate, a first in Lebanon. The latter was quick to react, indicating in a brief letter addressed to Judge Bitar that “the investigation remains suspended”.

The interrogations of 14 people have already been set by Judge Bitar between February 6 and 13, according to a judicial official quoted by AFP. Will they take place? Nothing is less certain, most of the officials assigned during the investigation never having responded to the summonses.

“The judicial and security authorities would first have to apply his decisions, which seems difficult, because he has no direct authority over the security forces”, points out the director of the Justicia Foundation. “Things are likely to get worse,” he adds, fearing a recurrence of security unrest similar to that which occurred in the Tayouné district of Beirut on October 14, 2021. A demonstration organized by Hezbollah and its ally of the Amal movement to demand the dismissal of Judge Bitar had turned to the armed clashes with supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, resulting in seven deaths.

Source : BBN NEWS

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