Mystery Deepens Around Beirut Explosion as Investigations Proliferate

Judge Tarek Bitar Resumes Beirut Explosion Investigation and Indicts Attorney General and Three Other Judges for Homicide

After a pause of more than a year and despite political pressure, Judge Tarek Bitar decided on Monday to resume his investigation into the explosion that occurred in 2020 that left more than 200 dead and 6,500 injured and destroyed part of the capital. Yesterday he released five of the defendants and he indicted on Tuesday (01.24.2023) an Attorney General and three other judges for “homicide”, a novelty in the history of Lebanon.

The judge decided to indict eight new people, including the Attorney General before the Court of Cassation, Ghassan Oueidate, and three judges, accused of “homicide, criminal arson and sabotage,” according to a judicial source.

In response to this accusation, the Lebanese Prosecutor’s Office rejected all of Bitar’s decisions and told him that he could not continue with his investigation.

The indictment comes from the huge explosion on August 4, 2020 that was caused by the careless storage of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse at the port of Beirut, leading to the resignation of the government five days later.

Judge Bitar called for people to testify including former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the director general of State Security, Tony Saliba, the head of the General Security Directorate, Abbas Ibrahim, and former minister Ghazi Zaiter. Some had already been summoned for interrogation in the past, but they never came to testify.

A Hezbollah supporter holds a sign against Judge Tarek Bitar during a protest in October 2021.

The Lebanese authorities have tried to neutralize Bitar by trying to appoint another judge, while some of the own suspects have asked for the transfer of the case to another investigator.

The judge also met with two French judges last week with an open investigation in France as there were citizens of this country among the victims.

Today a list published by Al Jadeed included Oueidate and Saliba in the list of people for whom Bitar has called to testify the coming days.

Several of the elites are indicted in total, including Diab. The Lebanese population attributes the explosion to the negligence and corruption of the political class and are accusing them of torpedoing the investigation to avoid prosecution.

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