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Morning Brief

Port blast probe developments, court officials’ strike, day of mourning: Everything you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Tuesday, Sept. 7

Port blast probe developments, court officials’ strike, day of mourning: Everything you need to know today

Bus and taxi owners blocked the entrance to the Beddawi refineries in Tripoli yesterday. (Credit: Michel Hallak/L’Orient-Le Jour)

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Former Minister Youssef Fenianos’ hearing session in the investigation into the 2020 Beirut blast has been postponed until Sept. 16, a judicial source told L’Orient Today. Fenianos was summoned for questioning by Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the probe, but he did not appear at the hearing scheduled yesterday. L’Orient-Le Jour reported that Fenianos’ lawyers presented two formal appeals in which they raised the judicial investigator’s lack of jurisdiction to interrogate the former minister and highlighted that the authority to prosecute him belongs to the Supreme Council — the judicial body charged with trying presidents and ministers. The investigation has been stalled for more than a year and no officials have been held accountable despite several having known about the presence at the port of the ammonium nitrate that detonated in the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion. Other officials summoned for questioning by the judge — such as General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim and MPs Ghazi Zeaiter, Ali Hassan Khalil and Nouhad Machnouk — have, like Fenianos, repeatedly refused to appear in court. Bitar last month issued a subpoena for caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and has ordered security forces to ensure Diab appears for questioning on Sept. 20 after the outgoing premier failed to attend his hearing in August. Diab had knowledge of the ammonium nitrate stored at the port prior to the explosion. Last December, Diab was among a handful of top officials charged with criminal negligence by Bitar’s predecessor, Fadi Sawwan, who was subsequently removed from the case.

Meanwhile, Sami Hussein, the former operations head at the Beirut port, was arrested yesterday in relation to the port explosion, a judicial source told L’Orient Today. Bitar had interrogated Hussein for five hours before an arrest warrant was issued. Last week Hani Hajj Shehadeh, a former senior customs official, was arrested after a six-hour interrogation.

Court officials announced yesterday that they will strike throughout the month of September due to deteriorating living and working conditions. In a press release, justice auxiliaries — legal professionals such as clerks and bailiffs — wrote that “the citizen, in general, and the auxiliary of justice, in particular, can no longer meet their daily needs,” adding that they “are fighting to find solutions allowing them to continue” in view of the “multidimensional crises” affecting the country. The legal professionals also complained about transportation costs, which they say have become “equivalent to the salary of an employee.” The court officials, however, indicated that they will continue to visit their workplaces to accomplish certain urgent tasks within legal deadlines.

Public bus and van owners blocked roads in the Qalamoun area near Tripoli and at the entrance to oil facilities in Beddawi yesterday to denounce fuel shortages. Protesters demonstrated on the road parallel to the refineries’ entrance, causing traffic jams in Beddawi and nearby Orman, L’Orient Le-Jour reported. The president of the union of drivers of the North, Chadi el-Sayed, called on the authorities to provide the drivers with fuel to enable them to resume their work, saying protests would escalate if their demands went unmet. The sit-in ended before noon, when the Lebanese Army intervened and an agreement was reached whereby drivers will be given priority at specific gas stations to fill their vehicles.

Public institutions will close today, as the funeral of the head of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdul-Amir Qabalan, takes place at 2 p.m. in the council’s headquarters. Officials, including Talal Arslan, leader of the Lebanese Democratic Party, and caretaker Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad, continued offering their condolences yesterday following Qabalan’s death on Saturday. Qabalan gained his post in the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council in 2017. Following the funeral, his body will be laid to rest in Rawdat al-Shaheedeen.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Former Minister Youssef Fenianos’ hearing session in the investigation into the 2020 Beirut blast has been postponed until Sept. 16, a judicial source told L’Orient Today. Fenianos was summoned for questioning by Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the probe, but he did not appear at the hearing scheduled yesterday. L’Orient-Le...