Beirut Blast Investigation Suspended – Again

Judge Bitar's Beirut Blast Probe Results Expected By October
SBI | Anadolu Agency/Houssam Shbaro

Former ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zaiter submitted a new lawsuit against Beirut Blast Investigative Judge Tarek Bitar on Tuesday, suspending the investigation once again.

Both Khalil and Zaiter are part of the Amal Movement, headed by long-term Speaker Nabih Berri.

The lawsuit was filed by sitting MP Zaiter’s and Khalil’s attorneys to the Civil Court of Cassation, only hours after Judge Bitar issued an arrest warrant for Khalil.

The former Finance Minister failed to show up to his scheduled interrogation on Tuesday, sending his lawyer Mohammad al-Mughraby instead, the National News Agency reported.

This is Judge Bitar‘s second arrest warrant – the first one issued in September for former Public Works and Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos.

Judge Bitar was scheduled to interrogate former Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk and Zaiter on October 13th, and former Prime Minister Hassan Diab on October 28th – all of which is now postponed indefinitely.

The request is part of a long list of tactics used by the political establishment to derail the investigation. Multiple requests to dismiss Judge Bitar have been submitted since he took over the case in February.

His predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawan was dismissed using similar tactics in December 2020, including threats. Similarly, Judge Bitar hasn’t been spared; smear campaigns and threats.

Concerned politicians have claimed the judges are biased and criticized the investigation for getting politicized.

The pressure on Judge Bitar has been increasing since it was made public in July that he is aiming to submit the final results by early October.

Head of Hezbollah‘s Internal Security, Wafiq Safa, threatened Judge Bitar earlier in September that they (Hezbollah) will remove him by force if the “legal path” doesn’t work.

On Monday night, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah charged on Judge Bitar again and called for ‘an honest and transparent judge’ instead.

“[Bitar] is acting as the ultimate ruler,” he said in a televised appearance. Nasrallah believes that the truth lays only in finding out who brought the ship carrying the ammonium nitrate to Lebanon.

“Have you questioned President Michel Aoun or former President Michel Sleiman,” he asked. He also criticized the move to go after Hassan Diab instead of former premiers.

Diab was chosen as Prime Minister in a Cabinet chosen only by the so-called Ruling Trio: Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement of Gebran Bassil, and the Amal Movement of Nabih Berri.

Thus any attack on Diab is considered an attack on all three parties. Former premiers have been the staunch opposition and allies of former premier Saad Hariri.

Nasrallah ended his speech saying the probe’s focus is wrong, and won’t be accepted for long.

In a televised statement on Monday, Hezbollah’s MP Hassan Ezzedine said that “the full story” of the ammonium nitrate will be soon made public, leading to believe that Hezbollah seems to know “the full story” or will soon claim one.

In context, Nasrallah had claimed back in August that the Ammonium Nitrate was stored in the port to be smuggled to Syrian rebel forces, hinting at Saad Hariri’s Future Movement that openly opposes Al-Assad’s regime.

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