June 8, 2023


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Protests escalate against Lebanese judge over Beirut port blast

Automatic weapons explosions, bombs, burnt vehicles, photos of the US ambassador were burned … Hundreds of Hezbollah supporters and protesters during the Amal (“Hope”) movement staged protests in Beirut on Thursday, October 14th. Magistrate Tarek Pittar, who is leading the investigation into the August 2020 explosion at a port in the Lebanese capital.

According to initial estimates, the fire exchanges killed at least one person and injured several others. The victim was shot in the head and the condition of three of the eight injured is critical, said Mariam Hassan of Sahel Hospital in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Scenes were heard as the procession marched from 1975 to 1990, in the vicinity of Tayune, between the Shia suburbs to the south of the city and the court where the rally ends, and near the front line during the Lebanese civil war.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Razak has called for peace. In a statement, the head of state said he would follow up with the army chief closely to consider measures to be taken to control the situation. Early in the morning (Beirut time), clashes continued and RPG rockets were heard. Lebanese Army She called on the public to evacuate the streets and warned that she would shoot against any weapon she encountered on the street.

Under the pressure of Judge Bitter

The incident comes shortly after a Lebanese cassation court dismissed complaints filed by two former ministers against a judge investigating an explosion in the Beirut port. Mr Bidar was forced to suspend his trial on Tuesday until the court’s ruling, which has caused the worst crisis since the Lebanese government was formed last month.

At least 214 people were killed, more than 6,500 were injured and several suburbs of the capital were destroyed due to the August 4, 2020 explosion and high levels of ammonium nitrate storage without warning. Allegedly due to criminal negligence, the authorities deny any international investigation and the unions allege that the families of the victims and the local investigation were torpedoed.

A Lebanese army soldier on the streets of Beirut on Thursday, October 14th.  Scenes echoed as the procession marched through the Shiite suburb south of the city and into the Dione district, which is located between the court where the rally ends.

Pro-Iranian Hezbollah and its allies are demanding that the magistrate dismiss the investigation, accusing him of politicizing the investigation, while politicians refuse to question Mr Bitter. On Tuesday, Pithar SP and former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil issued arrest warrants against members of the Shia Amal movement, an ally of Hezbollah.

But he was forced to suspend his investigation after fresh complaints from Mr Khalil and Amal’s other deputy and former minister, Ghazi Zaider.

The case sparked a tumultuous meeting of the Najib Mikadi government set up in September after nearly a year of political stalemate, with ministers calling for the transfer of a judge to Hezbollah and Amal.

Since taking charge of the investigation, Bitter has summoned former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and four former ministers for indictment. They did not appear before a judge and he did not execute the first arrest warrant against the former transport minister.

Judge Bitter resumed his work last week after the trial was initially adjourned. Some fear he will face the same fate as his predecessor Fodi Sawan, who was sacked in February after allegations by senior officials.

The article is reserved for our subscribers Read more Explosion in Beirut: Under the pressure of Judge Pitar

Le Monde with AB, AFP and Reuters

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