BEIRUT — “I was not forced to say what I had to say in the video circulated on Friday,” Ibrahim Hoteit, former spokesperson for the families of the victims of the 2020 Beirut port explosion, affirmed in a new video circulated on social media on Sunday night. In Friday’s video Hoteit for the first time spoke out against the investigation into the port explosion and called for the resignation of its head, Judge Tarek Bitar. Many, including other relatives of the explosion’s victims, immediately voiced concerns Hoteit had spoken under duress.
Here’s what we know:
• In the new video, Hoteit begins by saying that he has released this new recording in response to everyone asking him about the video he released on Friday night. “I am here to say that I was not forced to say anything, and everyone who knows me knows that I am someone who is keen on saying only the truth and I am never afraid of anything,” he says, before asking “whoever is saying that I made this video under pressure” to “stop this nonsense.”
• Hoteit also explains in the new video that he reached the decision to withdraw his support from Bitar’s investigation after he spoke to Bitar following Thursday’s clashes in Tayyouneh, which broke out during a protest organized by the political parties Hezbollah and the Amal Movement to denounce what they describe as Bitar’s “politicization” of the port blast probe. The fighting left seven people dead and more than 30 wounded. In the video, Hoteit expresses his dissatisfaction with Bitar’s response to his concerns about the Tayyouneh incident and the prospects for civil strife in the country. “Bitar told me that he is feeling pressure and thus I felt as though he doesn’t want to continue with this and that he no longer wants to interrogate anyone,” Hoteit said.
• In response to Hoteit’s video which was circulated on Friday, the families of the port blast victims released a statement reiterating their support for Bitar.
• Since being appointed to lead the port explosion investigation in February, Bitar has repeatedly sought to bring top-level officials and sitting MPs in for questioning. In recent months, his efforts have led to mounting political opposition to his investigation, culminating in Thursday’s protest. To date, no high-ranking officials have been held accountable for the catastrophic Aug. 4, 2020, explosion, caused by the detonation of a large quantity of ammonium nitrate carelessly stored in a port warehouse. The blast left more than 218 dead, wounded thousands and destroyed or damaged buildings across the Lebanese capital.
BEIRUT — “I was not forced to say what I had to say in the video circulated on Friday,” Ibrahim Hoteit, former spokesperson for the families of the victims of the 2020 Beirut port explosion, affirmed in a new video circulated on social media on Sunday night. In Friday’s video Hoteit for the first time spoke out against the investigation into the port explosion and called for the...