Lebanese justice minister says no politicising 'secret' Beirut port blast investigations

Lebanese justice minister says no politicising 'secret' Beirut port blast investigations
The new Lebanese justice minister said the investigations into the August 2020 Beirut blast must happen within the law and not dealt with politically, stressing that these investigations were secret.
2 min read
11 September, 2021
Khoury said the investigations into the blast were governed by secrecy [Getty]

Newly appointed Lebanese Justice Minister Henri Khoury said on Saturday that investigations into the Beirut port blast should be dealt with only in a legal manner and not politically, adding that the case was governed by complete secrecy.

Talking to The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Khoury said the inquiry was led only by the judicial investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar, and that his own role in the case will be in accordance with stipulated powers, stressing that he had no more authority.

"Dealing with the Beirut explosion case will be (solely) judicial and within the law, and whoever has a problem with Judge Bitar… there is a judicial inspection body (they can go to) and procedures they can take,"as was the case with former judicial investigator, Judge Fadi Sawan, said Khoury.

Khoury is one of the 24 ministers picked for Lebanon’s new cabinet which was announced on Friday, 13 months since the last cabinet resigned in the wake of the massive Aug. 4 explosion.

The former judge said there is no room for political interference in the case, despite the political hurdles Judge Bitar has faced since taking on the role.

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed learnt that the families of the victims of the blast were preparing for actions early next week with the aim of providing the necessary morale support for Bitar, who, like his predecessor Judge Sawan, has faced campaigns by the political parties of officials wanted for questioning.

The families have warned that they will escalate and "surprise" the ruling class if they continue to refuse to cooperate with Bitar and lift immunities. They, and many others in Lebanon, are furious that no senior officials have yet been brought to account.

Bitar issued requests in July to question former prime minister Hassan Diab and other top political and security officials, including former ministers, who were charged by his predecessor with negligence over the blast.

All have denied any wrongdoing.

The explosion, caused by a massive quantity of ammonium nitrate left unsafely at the port for years, killed over 200 people and wounded around 6,000 others. It devastated large swathes of the capital which have undergone slow but gradual recovery.