Judge Just Popstponed Interrogation Of Indicted Ministers Over Beirut’s Blast

Hasan Shaaban

Judge Fadi Sawan postponed the interrogation of former ministers Ali Hasan Khalil and Ghazi Zaeiter, over the Bierut Blast, to January 4th, after they failed to turn up for questioning on Wednesday.

Judge Sawan, the lead investigator on Beirut’s port explosion, charged three former ministers and the caretaker prime minister last week, sparking fierce debate about whether he had judicial authority over ministers.

The argument is that the constitution states no MP can be questioned when parliament is in session.

Some leading parties rebuked the judge for his action, including Hezbollah and the Future Movement, implying that Sawan has been selective and overstepped his powers.

However, the Lebanese Judges Association argued that ministers are not subject to immunity in this case, as the crime committed is not related to any of the duties in office.

The three indicted former ministers reportedly submitted a request through their agents to transfer the case from Sawan to another judge, alleging doubts over Sawan’s impartiality.

Hassan Diab’s office made it clear that he won’t cooperate, stating that the Judge’s move to charge him over the port explosion goes against parliament laws and violates the constitution.

Ali Hassan Khalil, a former finance minister, and Ghazi Zeaiter, a former public works minister are both lawmakers from Amal, the Shiaa party led by long-time Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied to Hezbollah.

Khalil said he played no role in the blast case. However, the Finance Ministry, which he had led from 2014 to early 2020, oversees the customs administration, which has a presence in the port and other entry points.

Zeaiter, who called the charges “a blatant violation”, had run the Public Works Ministry in 2014, soon after the ship carrying the ammonium nitrate arrived at the port.

Frustration is accumulating among the families of the blast victims. They have been relentlessly protesting for answers in regards to the August 4th explosion that was caused by a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate carelessly stored in unsafe conditions.

In a country where politicians have held power for decades amid corruption and mismanagement, very few of them have been held accountable for the disastrous explosion.

Top that with the fierce resistance of late by the politicians, Lebanese people are losing hope to have their right for justice honored.