Brother of Beirut port blast victim released after protests
The brother of a victim of the deadly 2020 Beirut Port blast was released on Saturday after spending a night in custody, as dozens of activists gathered outside the police station he was held at since Friday demanding he be freed.
Judge Zaher Hmadeh agreed to release William Noun from detention. Speaking from Beirut's central fire station shortly after, Noun vowed to continue seeking justice for those killed in the 4 August 2020 tragedy.
#وليام_نون حرًّا طليقًا بعد تراجع الدولة البوليسية أمام ضغط اللبنانيين فالوحدة والانصهار بين الناس والنواب كانت كفيلة بكسر إرادة القمع.— Waddah Sadek - وضاح صادق (@WaddahSadek) January 14, 2023
شعب حر لن يرضخ أبدا لمنطق الترهيب
مستمرون حتى محاسبة كل المسؤولين عن #تفجير_المرفأ أيًّا كانوا. pic.twitter.com/bhTCFULati
Noun - whose brother, a fireman, was killed in the Beirut port explosion - was arrested Friday allegedly over remarks made during a television programme, a judiciary source told AFP.
The young man is a leading figure among families of the blast's victims who have been calling for the continuation of a probe into the tragic event, on hold for over a year.
Noun's arrest sparked protests Friday night, as his relatives and other victims' families, along with activists and lawmakers, cut off roads in the capital and other parts of the country.
والد #وليم_نون— Majdoline | مريم مجدولين اللحام (@MajdolineLahham) January 14, 2023
عندي شابين وبنت. واحد دفنته أشلاء ٣ مرات وبنت وويليام. شو بعد بدن قدم؟
سنتين ونص ابني ما بينام على تخته حد خيو وما في غير امو بتفوت غرفة الشهيد. إجو يفتشوا غرفة الشهيد!
وفيق صفا هدد قاضي التحقيق من داخل أروقة قصر العدل ما حدا قرب صوبه.
أكرر: "يبلطوا البحر" pic.twitter.com/WFjWkU9ree
Protest outside Lebanon’s State Security HQ in Ramlet Bayda (Beirut) demanding release of William Noun, brother of firefighter Joe Noun who was killed in the Aug. 4 Beirut Blast. 🎥 by Cherine Zantout pic.twitter.com/5GGfGn0Y0n— Mohamad El Chamaa (@MohamdEch) January 14, 2023
Known for his outspokenness, and in a moment of rage, he had threatened during televised remarks on Thursday to "blow up the palace of justice" to protest moves to replace the judge investigating the blast.
Embattled judge Tarek Bitar has faced an endless series of complaints against him, part of a campaign led by the militant Shia group Hezbollah and its allies seeking to block his probe into the blast.
On Tuesday, relatives of the victims, including Noun, threw stones at the palace of justice in Beirut, where they gathered again on Thursday in a protest over Bitar's possible replacement.
أهالي ضحايا تفجير #مرفأ_بيروت من #الرملة_البيضاء: ما نقوم به هو البداية ونطالب بقطع الطرقات في كافة المناطق .. "دمنا غالي ومش رخيص" #وليم_نون_صاحب_حق #وليم_نون pic.twitter.com/7d6xWOnQmw— wafaa (@wafaa_alty) January 14, 2023
Demonstrations were also held on Saturday in front of the police station where Noun was being held, according to witnesses.
"This is an attempt to intimidate but it won't work," Noun's lawyer, Ralph Tannous, told Lebanese television. "This is a political move, not a judicial one".
MP and lawyer Melhem Khalaf meanwhile told AFP, "I wish they would implement with the same enthusiasm all the warrants issued by the judicial investigator" over the port blast.
He described the replacement of the investigator as a "distraction from all the abnormalities that are happening in the country".
The 2020 disaster, one of history's biggest non-nuclear explosions, killed more than 200 people and decimated vast areas of the capital after a stockpile of haphazardly stored ammonium nitrate caught fire.
Bitar has attempted to question a former premier, four ex-ministers, and a number of security officials over the tragedy, but his probe was repeatedly obstructed before being suspended.