Discrimination prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat sued Beirut port explosion coroner Tarek Bitar on Wednesday amid an unprecedented legal battle that threatens to derail the investigation into the disaster that rocked the capital in the summer of 2020.
Oveidat’s decision comes two days after Bitar announced, in defiance of political pressure and judicial obstruction, the reopening of his investigation, despite dozens of lawsuits demanding his dismissal and suspension 13 months ago, which the prosecution has rejected.
Bitar reopened the investigation into eight people, including Oveidat and two senior security officials.
The Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation quickly rejected Bitari’s decisions to reopen the investigation or file new charges.
The legal battle intensified on Wednesday with the announcement of the prosecution’s charges against Bitari and the release of the 17 detainees as part of the investigation.
Oveidat confirmed to France Presse the judgment against Bitar and the decision to ban him from traveling on grounds of rebellion against the judiciary and usurpation of power.
For his part, Bitar refused to resign in front of him.
“I continue to be a forensic investigator and I am not ruling out the case (…) As for Oveidat, he has no right to sue me and his decision should not be implemented,” he told AFP, adding that “Oveidat has no say in the lawsuit. He has no right to receive because he is the defendant. You have no right to sue.” against the judge who charged him.
The court upheld Bitari’s refusal to appear before Oveidat.
The explosion on August 4, 2020 killed more than 215 people and injured 6,500. Lebanese authorities initially linked the explosion to the storage of large amounts of ammonium nitrate in the port without preventive measures and to the fire, the causes of which are unknown. It was later revealed that officials at various levels knew the dangers of storing the substance and did not lift a finger.
Bitar filed the lawsuit in the summer of 2021 against former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, calling for the waiver of the immunity of then MPs, including former Labor Ministers Youssef Fenianos and Ghazi Zuaiter and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil .
Among the eight people indicted by Bitar on Tuesday were Oweidat, three judges and Director General of Public Security Abbas Ibrahim, who has good relations with political forces, in particular Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most prominent political and military player. , and the Director of the State Security Agency, Tony Saliba. a former He is close to President Michel Aoun.
On Tuesday, Bitar set trial dates for 13 defendants next month in public prosecutions for “murder, damage, arson and vandalism, all depending on the alleged intent”.
Oweidat also decided on Wednesday, according to a memo seen by AFP, “to release all those detained in the case of the attack on the port of Beirut, without exception, to prevent them from traveling and to place them at the disposal of the Judicial Council.”
His decision came after Bitar announced the release of just five of the 17 detainees.
“Aweidat has no right to release the detainees, but only the judicial investigator has the right to do so,” Bitar told AFP.
According to local media reports, the layoffs have already started and the former director general of customs, Badri Daher, has been released.
The decision to release all the detainees, including a Lebanese man with US citizenship, angered the victims’ families, who called demonstrations.
Lawyer Cecil Roques, who lost his brother in the explosion, said Oveidat “does not have the right to release the detainees. This is madness.”
After receiving the file, Bitar faced obstacles and political interference that prevented Bitar from completing the work. Several political forces, notably Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most prominent political and military actor, opposed his work, accusing him of “politicization”. The file that prompted the resignation.
The previous legislature refused to lift the immunity of deputies holding ministerial posts, preventing them from being questioned. The Ministry of the Interior refused to allow Bitar to question the security agents in his capacity and the security forces failed to comply with the arrest warrant.
Asked about resuming the investigation, Hezbollah Secretary General Hussein al-Khalil’s political adviser told reporters on Monday that the Beirut port investigation is a “black spot” in the judicial system.
In October 2021, supporters of Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement, to which ministers Zeiter and Khalil belong, staged a demonstration that sparked riots and violence, and then a shootout that left seven dead.
The ongoing investigation into the Beirut port attack reflects a culture of “impunity” that has always characterized the public scene in a country whose history is littered with murders, bombings and corruption cases involving those involved who have rarely been held accountable.
The suspension of the investigation and repeated political interference have fueled anger from victims’ families and human rights groups, who are calling on the United Nations to send an independent fact-finding mission amid delays in local investigations.
I am Ben Stock, a highly experienced professional with over 7 years of experience in the news industry. I specialize in market section writing and have published numerous high-quality articles on various topics under my name. My passion for journalism has helped me to develop an in-depth understanding of the industry, enabling me to stay up-to-date on all the latest trends and developments.