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Explosion in Beirut: the judge wants the immediate arrest of a former minister

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The investigation into the gigantic explosion of August 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 people, resumed Wednesday after several weeks of hiatus due to legal proceedings against Mr. Bitar launched by political figures targeted by his investigation.

The justice rejected these lawsuits, thus allowing the judge to resume his work.

Blamed for criminal negligence, the authorities are accused by the families of the victims and NGOs of political interference to torpedo the investigation and avoid charges.

Ali Hassan Khalil listens to a colleague speak.

Ali Hassan Khalil in parliament, May 24, 2019

Photo: Associated Press / Hassan Ammar

Bitar has again issued an arrest warrant against former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, right-hand man of parliament speaker Nabih Berri, told theFrance Media Agency a judicial source on condition of anonymity.

The judge asked to the security services its immediate application, added this source.

However, it seems unlikely that the arrest warrant will be implemented, because the director general of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) Imad Osman had already refused in October to implement this decision.

The refusal of a security apparatus to execute an arrest warrant sets a dangerous precedent.

A quote from A Lebanese judicial source

In a country where political leaders determine judicial appointments, including in the highest courts, the room for maneuver of justice is limited.

The massive August 2020 blast was triggered by a fire in a warehouse that housed tons of stored ammonium nitrate without precautionary measures, by the authorities’ own admission.

Politicians of all stripes have since refused to be questioned by Mr. Bitar, the Shiite parties Amal and Hezbollah and their allies being the most critical of him. These two formations, members of the government, in particular prevent it from meeting in order to put pressure to obtain the departure of the judge.

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