According to a document, Lebanon’s judiciary wants to add a second judge to an ongoing inquiry into the Beirut port explosion, further complicating efforts to hold responsible parties accountable for the catastrophe that claimed more than 220 lives.
When hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate stockpiled at the port exploded in 2020, it leveled large portions of the city.
Judge Tarek Bitar’s investigation into the explosion has been put on hold since late 2021 due to lawsuits filed by powerful figures he has sought to interrogate.
He is now unable to call suspects or file charges. Still, it also means that people who were detained following the explosion but were later exonerated of all suspicion have remained in detention.
A copy of the letter shows that the secondary judge will continue to serve “so long as the original investigator cannot carry out his responsibilities, including release requests.”
According to a top judicial source, Khoury will now offer one or more candidates if the Judicial Council approves the idea. The source also stated that the new judge would not have the authority to file charges.
An inquiry for feedback from Khoury received no response.
The ruling elite in Lebanon, whose history of sectarian power-sharing has thrown the nation into a political and economic crisis, frequently exerts influence over judges.