(Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
The leader of the Beirut port explosion Victims Association, Ibrahim Hoteit, has called for the removal of judge Tarek Bitar from his position as lead investigator into last year’s catastrophic explosion that left over 200 dead.
In a video posted to social media late on 15 October, Hoteit accused judge Bitar of politicizing the investigation and of serving the interests of US officials, who have been deeply involved in the blast probe.
“America has never supported any issue unless it had an ulterior motive,” Hoteit says in the video.
He has also dismissed claims that his comments were made under duress, telling Lebanese media on 16 October: “My position on the forensic investigator Tarek Bitar is not fabricated. I spoke in my personal capacity and not on behalf of the families of the victims of the port and no one asked me to say what I said.”
His damning comments came just hours after the funeral of seven protesters who were shot by snipers during a peaceful sit-in to demand Bitar’s removal.
On 14 October, members of the far-right Lebanese Forces (LF) party ambushed peaceful protesters in the Tayouneh neighborhood of Beirut, firing at them from rooftops in what has been described by resistance leaders as an attempt to ignite a new civil war in Lebanon.
According to the Lebanese army, 19 people have so far been detained in connection to Thursday’s massacre, including “concierges of the buildings that snipers used to shoot at the demonstrators … [and] members affiliated with the Lebanese Forces party, who were spotted on the battlefield.”