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PORT INVESTIGATION

Relatives of the port blast victims accuse finance minister of obstructing progress on the probe into the explosion


Relatives of the port blast victims accuse finance minister of obstructing progress on the probe into the explosion

View of the port of Beirut and the destroyed silos, April 14, 2022. (Credit: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

BEIRUT — Families of victims of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion accused Finance Minister Youssef Khalil on Wednesday of blocking the investigation into the blast by not signing a decree of judicial appointment.

Here’s what we know:

    • The decree that Khalil has refrained for days from signing on grounds of a “fundamental fault” is a confessional distribution plan that appoints six of the 10 heads of chambers of the Court of Cassation, which make up the court’s plenary assembly.

    • This assembly is competent to rule on complaints filed against Beirut port probe head, Judge Tarek Bitar, and Judge Naji Eid, who is responsible for examining an appeal brought against Bitar by MPs and former ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter, both of whom are being prosecuted as part of the investigation. The complaints brought against Bitar have effectively stalled the probe into the blast.

    • Established in March by the Supreme Judicial Council and immediately signed by Justice Minister Henri Khoury, these appointments are necessary in order for the plenary assembly to meet. The assembly has been unable to reach quorum for its meetings since January due to the retirement of some of its members.

    • At a press conference, the families of the victims and firefighters killed in the explosion accused the finance minister of “undermining the independence of the judiciary and violating the principle of separation of powers.” Khalil is considered close to the Amal Movement.

    • By delaying adding his signature to the decree, Khalil is responsible, according to the relatives of victims, for preventing Bitar from investigating Portuguese national Jorge Moreira, who was arrested last Wednesday in Madrid by Interpol in connection with the Beirut port explosion.

    • Accusing Youssef Khalil of refusing to meet them, the relatives of victims warned against a future mobilization in front of his residence if the minister does not sign the decree.


BEIRUT — Families of victims of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion accused Finance Minister Youssef Khalil on Wednesday of blocking the investigation into the blast by not signing a decree of judicial appointment. Here’s what we know:    • The decree that Khalil has refrained for days from signing on grounds of a “fundamental fault” is a confessional distribution plan...