Investigation on Beirut port blast suspended after request to remove judge

The Lebanese political leadership has accused Judge Tarek Bitar of bias after charging senior officials during the investigation of the Beirut Port blast.

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After former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk formally alerted the investigator of the request to discharge him from the Beirut Port blast case, the investigation has been postponed. As per Lebanese law, Judge Tarek Bitar was forced to close the investigation.

Bitar had previously filed new appeals to the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities to beckon General Security Chief Major-General Abbas Ibrahim and State Security Chief Major-General Tony Saliba on Monday, and had to cancel the scheduled interrogations with two brigadier-generals.

The judiciary will regulate whether Bitar will continue leading the inquiry. Machnouk, a sitting parliamentarian, as well as ex-Public Works Minister Youssef Finianos, requested to remove Bitar from the blast investigation last week, accusing the judge of bias and delinquency.

More than 200 people were killed in the Beirut blast on August 4, 2020, after a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored unsafely at the port for years, detonated.

About 6,500 people were injured and entire neighborhoods in Lebanon’s capital were destroyed.

The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions recorded and was the most destructive single incident in the country’s troubled history.

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