BEIRUT — Cabinet’s weekly meeting, the third session of the new government, was halted midway through and adjourned until tomorrow, amid discussions about the latest developments in the Beirut blast investigation that, according to some reports, included a dispute over removing Judge Tarek Bitar from the case.
Here’s what we know so far:
• L’Orient Le-Jour’s correspondent at the presidential palace, where the meeting was held, along with other local media outlets, reported that Shite ministers affiliated with Hezbollah and Amal, along with Marada party ministers, demanded the replacement of the head of the port blast investigation, Judge Tarek Bitar, which created tension in the meeting and led to the adjournment of the session.
• In a press conference after the meeting, Information Minister George Kurdahi, who was named to the cabinet by Marada, denied that the discussion was tense or that some ministers had demanded the replacement of Bitar but said that the discussion about the port blast investigation will continue tomorrow.
• A presidential palace source, however, told L’Orient Today that the Hezbollah and Amal Ministers did indeed demand the removal of Bitar. He added that President Michel Aoun had intervened, saying that the decision would have to go to the courts, and had asked the Justice Minister to study the case before tomorrow’s cabinet meeting.
• On Tuesday morning, the Beirut blast investigation was suspended again after new complaints were filed against Bitar at the Court of Cassation by sitting MPs Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil.
• Shortly before the investigation was suspended, Bitar had issued an arrest warrant against Ali Hassan Khalil after he failed to appear for a scheduled interrogation.
• Cabinet also made a number of decisions, including appointing Bassam Badran as a new president for the Lebanese University, appointing Judge Albert Serhan and lawyer Mireille Najm as two new members of the Constitutional Council, and appointing Judge Mohammad Masri as the new Director General of the Justice Ministry.
• Prior to Cabinet’s meeting, the Higher Defense Council met with Aoun. During the meeting, they discussed lifting immunity from the previous head of the Army Intelligence Tony Saliba. A statement released by Aoun’s office after the meeting said they had “taken the appropriate decision” but did not make their decision public.
This article has been updated to include comments from a presidential palace source.