The Lebanese government had to postpone a meeting scheduled for Wednesday (13) due to strong tensions generated by the investigation of the explosion in the port of Beirut, with Hezbollah and its allies demanding that the judge in charge of the case be replaced by another.
On Tuesday, Judge Tareq Bitar, a victim of a smear campaign, was forced to suspend his investigation for the second time. Shortly before, he issued an arrest warrant against former finance minister and deputy Ali Hassan Khalil, a senior official in the Amal movement, a Shiite party allied with Hezbollah.
The magistrate is the target of a campaign promoted by various parties, such as Hezbollah, which on Monday accused him of politicizing the investigation, requesting that he be replaced.
The explosion, which took place on August 4, 2020 because of the storage, without relevant security measures, of huge amounts of ammonium nitrate, caused more than 200 deaths and 6,500 injuries and destroyed entire neighborhoods of Beirut.
Authorities have rejected carrying out any international investigation and the victims’ families and NGOs accuse them of undermining the local investigation.
Furthermore, policymakers of all persuasions refuse to be questioned by the judge.
This matter almost prevented a government meeting held on Tuesday afternoon, an official who requested anonymity explained to AFP.
Hezbollah ministers “have asked for the judge to be replaced, but the government is not qualified to do this and this issue corresponds to the high council of justice,” explained the source.
In addition, the Council of Ministers that was scheduled for Tuesday was postponed, as it has not reached an agreement on the magistrate’s issue.
At the same time, supporters of Hezbolla and Amal called a demonstration for Thursday (14) in front of the Palace of Justice, where the families of victims of the explosion usually gather, demanding that the investigation be completed.
Lebanon’s government, led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, was formed on Sept. 10, after more than a year of political void after Hasan Diab’s executive resigned over the blast.
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