A general view shows the site of the 2020 Beirut port explosion. 29 September, 2021. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
The investigation into last year’s catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut has been stalled once again, after two politicians who were wanted for questioning filed a new complaint against Judge Tarek Bitar, alleging the lead investigator into the blast is politically biased.
Earlier on 12 October Judge Bitar issued an arrest warrant for former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil after he failed to show up for questioning.
However, his request fell through after Khalil, along with another politician, filed the latest complaint against Judge Bitar.
“I consider it illegal and not to be taken into account,” Khalil told al Mayadeen in an interview on Tuesday, referring to the arrest warrant issued against him.
Bitar is the second judge to take the lead in the investigation, coming in after Fadi Sawan was removed from the case back in February, following similar complaints filed by the same politicians who are now challenging the probe.
According to officials, several ministers pushed for Bitar’s removal during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, but no resolution was reached.
Reports also indicate that during a meeting of the country’s supreme defense council, led by President Michel Aoun, those present refused to give Bitar permission to pursue Tony Saliba, the director general of state security.
On 11 October Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, also spoke against Bitar, accusing him of leading a “politicized” investigation.
“The targeting is clear, you are picking certain officials and certain people. The bias is clear,” Nasrallah said, in televised comments that openly called for Bitar’s replacement, adding that the resistance movement wanted a judge who was “transparent.”
Anger is mounting in Lebanon against the political class, as no party has yet been held responsible for last August’s explosion, which destroyed large sections of Beirut and killed over 200 people.