Families of victims of Beirut bombing rallies to demand resumption of investigation

Families of victims of the Beirut port bombing last year gathered outside the Supreme Court of Lebanon, condemning what they said was deliberately obstructing the investigation of the devastating explosion

Beirut – The families of the victims of the bombing in the Beirut port last year gathered outside the Supreme Court of Lebanon on Thursday to oppose what they call deliberately obstructing the investigation of the devastating explosion. They said their message to the authorities was: “We are tired of waiting.”

The most recent suspension is now in its fourth week and is the longest since Bitar took over the case in February, after his predecessor was removed by a court order. Other legal challenges only resulted in a suspension of a few days.

The family said in a statement that the investigation has been repeatedly blocked as “surprising and shameful.”

Family spokesperson George Bezdjian read from the statement: “The defendant successfully submerged the case in a complicated political and judicial network.” Bezdjian’s daughter Jessica is a nurse , Was killed in the explosion.

Bitar’s investigation faces at least 15 lawsuits, each of which questioned the process of the investigation, his impartiality and authority. Most of the lawsuits were dismissed by lower courts.

But earlier this month, a senior judge of the High Judicial Committee appointed by the government accepted the defendant’s request to evade Bitar and automatically stopped the investigation until a final decision was made. Although the move was dismissed by another senior judge on Wednesday, legal experts said that Bitar may wait for a court ruling that clearly states that he can return to work.

It is not clear when the decision will be made.

At the core of the legal quagmire is the criticism of senior Lebanese officials who are responsible for storing nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers, in Beirut Port for many years. Bitar has subpoenaed more than a dozen senior officials, accusing some of them of criminal negligence and possible intentional homicide.

On August 4, 2020, nitrate was ignited after a fire broke out in the port. The explosion killed more than 216 people and injured more than 6,000. Parts of Beirut were severely damaged.

The suspected officials first claimed that parliament or professional immunity protects them from being challenged by the judiciary. Then the lawsuit began. Last month, the head of Lebanon’s powerful radical Hezbollah called for Bitar to be removed.

After ministers allied with Hezbollah asked the Cabinet to respond to calls for Bitar to be removed, the investigation also paralyzed the government.

The families of the victims of the bombing appealed to the judiciary to allow the investigation to continue. To those who obstructed the investigation, they said: “History will not pity you.”

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