BEIRUT — Relatives of detainees arrested in connection with the Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut Port blast held a sit-in Friday at the Beirut Justice Palace calling on caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil to sign judicial appointments, which have been blocked for over four months, so that the investigation can resume.
Here’s what we know:
• “We call on the finance minister to sign the judicial appointments as soon as possible,” one protester said. “The situation is unbearable. More than two and half years after their arrest, our relatives don’t have the right to defend themselves because the investigation is blocked,” another added. The protesters called for the “release with travel restrictions” of their relatives until the investigation resumes.
• In April, Khalil said his refusal to sign was due to “essential errors” in the text while promising to address the problems in the nominations, but no progress has been made until present.
• Around 15 suspects, including former customs director Badri Daher, have been in custody for over a year. Last February, relatives of the detainees protested at the military police in Rihanieh, in Beirut’s suburbs, to demand their immediate release. In early May, relatives of those injured in the blast called on the government to accelerate the signing.
• Nearly two years after this tragedy, which took the lives of more than 220 people, injured at least 6,500 others and ravaged entire districts of the capital, the investigation continues to stall, with repeated interferences in lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar’s probe. Several political leaders prosecuted in the investigation have tried to use legal means to remove Bitar, which has caused further delays.