The lead judge investigating Lebanon’s gigantic port blast last year has delivered an arrest warrant for former Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil, who failed to appear for questioning, state media stated.
Khalil, a senior member of the Shiite Amal movement and an ally of the armed Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, was not immediately available for comment.
Earlier, the lead judge delivered the same arrest warrant to a former government minister, Youssef Fenianos, who had declined to appear before investigating judge Tarek Bitar.
For years, hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly dangerous material used in fertilizers, had been indecorously deposited in the port. It blasted on August 4, 2020, devastating parts of the capital Beirut. The Lebanese investigation has been running into major obstacles, including the removal of Bitar’s predecessor on charges he violated the constitution by summoning government officials.
More than a year after the explosion, there are still no answers to what triggered the explosion, and no one has been held accountable.
Rights groups and local media revealed that most state officials knew of the presence of ammonium nitrate in the port but did nothing to remove it or properly store it. In an extensive report issued last month, Human Rights Watch said senior officials also knew of the risks posed by the highly explosive material and did nothing to protect the public against it.