Beirut Explosion Justice Postponed As Renewed Probe Rejected

Beirut Explosion Justice Postponed As Renewed Probe Rejected

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – After rejecting the court's sudden reopening of the investigation, Lebanon's top public prosecutor accused the Beirut port bomb investigating judge and ordered the release of individuals imprisoned in connection with the explosion on Wednesday.

Ghassan Oweidat's actions indicate Lebanon's ruling establishment's growing opposition to Judge Tarek Bitar's efforts to revive the investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, blast that killed more than 220 people, France24 reported.

Oweidat told Reuters in a text message that he had called Bitar for questioning but did not say if he had charged him. Bitar stated that he had been charged but did not elaborate.

A judicial source previously stated that Oweidat had filed accusations against Bitar for alleged irregularities in his handling of the investigation.

He also charged top current and former officials including Oweidat without specifying the charges against the top prosecutor.

Bitar said on Wednesday he would continue his probe despite mounting resistance. He said he would "continue until I issue an indictment" and said that Oweidat "had no right" to file the charge or release detainees.

Oweidat on Tuesday sent a letter to Bitar saying his probe remained suspended and on Wednesday issued a decision, saying the judge did not have the authority to resume his investigation.

In the same decision, Oweidat released all those detained in connection with the probe "without exception" but said they would face a travel ban.

At least 17 people, mostly low- to mid-level officials, had been detained since 2020 in relation to the case, said Amnesty International, in conditions it said could violate their due process rights.

Badri Daher, who headed the customs authority at the time of the blast and was the most senior official detained following the explosion, was freed on Wednesday, Daher's sister said.

The explosion, one of the largest non-nuclear blasts on record, was caused by hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate unloaded at the port in 2013.

To many Lebanese, the disaster symbolized the wider corruption and mismanagement of a ruling elite that had also steered Lebanon into a devastating financial collapse.

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