Lebanon blast investigator expenses public prosecutor, sources say

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The decide investigating the 2020 Beirut port explosion has charged Lebanon’s prime public prosecutor and three different judges in reference to the catastrophic blast, two judicial sources mentioned on Tuesday.

Decide Tarek Bitar, who has unexpectedly resumed an inquiry that has been paralysed by high-level political resistance, has scheduled questioning with Prosecutor Basic Ghassan Oweidat for February, the sources mentioned, with out specifying the fees.

Reuters couldn’t instantly attain Oweidat for remark.

Bitar’s efforts to interrogate prime officers over the explosion that killed 220 individuals and shattered elements of Beirut have been hindered by factions together with the closely armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Bitar has additionally charged Main Basic Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s home intelligence company, and Main Basic Tony Saliba, head of one other safety physique, in reference to the blast, in addition to former military commander Jean Kahwaji, judicial officers have mentioned, with out specifying the fees.

Judicial sources mentioned interrogations had been scheduled for February for 15 individuals, together with the highest safety officers, Oweidat, two former ministers, and Hassan Diab, who was the prime minister on the time of the blast.

Ibrahim declined to touch upon studies he had been charged when contacted by Reuters on Monday. Kahwaji declined to remark. Saliba couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.

All these beforehand charged by Bitar have denied wrongdoing.

The explosion on Aug. 4, 2020 was brought on by tons of of tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been saved on the port in poor circumstances because it was unloaded in 2013. Up to now, no senior official has been held to account.

Bitar met French judges visiting Beirut final week as a part of a French investigation into the explosion, whose victims included two French nationals. He was unable to share paperwork with them as a result of the investigation was frozen.

Politicians that Bitar had sought to query, together with Hezbollah allies, made dozens of authorized challenges disputing his proper to interrogate them and saying he had overstepped his powers.

The investigation was paralysed in early 2022 by the retirement of judges from a courtroom that should rule on a number of such complaints in opposition to Bitar earlier than he can proceed.

The courtroom has been awaiting the appointment of latest judges to renew its work, a step authorities haven’t taken.

Bitar resumed work on the premise of a authorized interpretation difficult the explanations for its suspension, the judicial sources mentioned.

Hezbollah has campaigned in opposition to Bitar as he sought to query its allies and accused Washington of meddling within the probe. Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah referred to as for him to get replaced.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Timour Azhari; Writing by Tom Perry; Enhancing by Kevin Liffey)

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