Prosecutor orders launch of Beirut port blast detainees

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s high prosecutor Wednesday ordered all suspects detained within the investigation into the lethal 2020 port blast in Beirut launched, a lawyer for 2 detainees and judicial officers mentioned.

The transfer by chief prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat is one other blow to the investigation, which has stalled for years. The probe has threatened to rattle Lebanon’s ruling elite, which is rife with corruption and mismanagement and has helped push the nation into an unprecedented financial meltdown.

The choice got here after Decide Tarek Bitar on Monday resumed the investigation into the devastating port blast, following a 13-month halt over authorized challenges raised by politicians accused within the probe — together with the chief prosecutor.

Seventeen detainees have been held for years in pre-trial detention after the huge port blast on Aug. 4, 2020. A whole bunch of tons of extremely explosive ammonium nitrate, a cloth utilized in fertilizers, detonated at Beirut Port, killing 218 folks, injuring over 6,000 and damaging giant elements of the Lebanese capital.

Lawyer Sakher El Hachem, who represents two of the detainees, informed The Related Press that they obtained affirmation of the choice after inquiring to the judiciary, and that his shoppers can be launched Wednesday.

The judicial officers added that Ouweidat, who defied Bitar’s resolution to renew the paralyzed investigation, will press costs in opposition to him. They spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to talk to the press.

Ouweidat didn’t instantly reply to calls from the AP looking for remark.

Decide Bitar is the second investigator to steer the probe into the port blast, and has charged over a dozen senior political, safety, port and safety officers.

On Monday, Bitar ordered the discharge of 5 of 17 detainees within the case and charged eight officers, amongst them high intelligence officers Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, in addition to Oweidat.

The choose additionally summoned at the very least 14 politicians and judicial, safety and customs officers for questioning in February. Senior officers have repeatedly refused to indicate up for questioning for the reason that begin of the probe.

Bitar took his submit following the elimination in February 2021 of Decide Fadi Sawwan over complaints of bias by two Cupboard ministers. If he’s additionally eliminated, it might be the ultimate blow to the investigation.

Lebanon’s political management have accused Bitar with out proof of being biased in his investigation, with some demanding his elimination.

Related Press writers Abby Sewell and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

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