Lebanese ex-minister seeking removal of judge in Beirut port blast inquiry

Lebanese ex-minister seeking removal of judge in Beirut port blast inquiry
Three other former Lebanese officials, including ex-PM Hassan Diab, are also expected to make similar requests, according to Lebanese state media.
2 min read
23 September, 2021
Former officials have been accused of swerving accountability over the Beirut port blast [Getty]

A former Lebanese minister wanted for questioning over the Beirut port blast has asked Lebanon's Supreme Court to remove the judge leading the investigations, the Lebanese National News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Former minister Youssef Fenianos argued that Judge Tarek Bitar has no authority to prosecute him, after the judge issued an arrest warrant for Fenianos for his failure to attend questioning on 16 September.

Fenianos filed a lawsuit for the case to be transferred to another judge due to a "concern for justice" as he says an unknown party is trying “to blame me as a former minister of public works” for the blast.

Ex-Ministers Nouhad Mashnouk and Hassan Khalil are also expected to file similar requests, alongside former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, reported the Lebanese News Agency.

"We will confront the law, the constitution and the politics ... this is too much", Mashnouk said in a meeting on Wednesday.

Fadi Sawan, the judge previously working on the case, was removed by a Lebanese court and replaced with Bitar after charging former premier Diab with negligence over the blast.

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The development is one in a series of such whereby former Lebanese officials due to be questioned have shunned investigations.

The investigation of Diab was postponed after he fled to the US ahead of his questioning, stating he already gave his testimony and "has nothing new to say", according to his advisor, Laila Hatoum.

Former officials have been accused intentionally avoiding accountability over the blast.

“It is outrageous that Lebanese politicians think they can just replace a judge every time he tries to hold them accountable until one is appointed that is to their liking,” said Aya Majzoub, a Lebanon researcher from Human Rights Watch, report AP.

The Beirut Port explosion on 4 August 2020 lead to the deaths of over 200 people, as 6,000 people were injured after 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material, caught fire in the port. 

No one has yet been convicted in relation to the blast.