BEIRUT — A group of families of victims of the port blast explosion, led by spokesperson Ibrahim Hoteit, will protest today at gate three of the port, where they plan to announce a march, Hoteit told L’Orient Today on Thursday.
Here’s what we know:
• Hoteit, whose brother was killed in the explosion, previously supported port blast probe lead investigating judge Tarek Bitar and served as the spokesperson for the families of the port blast victims when the group was united. In October 2021, however, Hoteit released a video calling for Bitar’s resignation. Some claim that he was speaking under duress. Hoteit now leads a separate group of family members of victims, who are opposed to Bitar.
• Hoteit also said Thursday: It is unfortunate that the separation happened, we suffer from the same wound, the difference is that we disagree on the role of [the head of the investigation judge] Tarek Bitar… he has not summoned people who he should have. We demand that he resigns from his post.”
• This afternoon at least three marches demanding justice for the victims of the explosion are planned to take place — starting from the Justice Palace, the an-Nahar building and the fire station in Karantina, at 3 p.m., 4 p.m., and 4 p.m., respectively. All three will converge at the Statue of the Emigrant next to the port.
• Since being appointed to lead the port explosion investigation, 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 led by Hoteit. 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. The investigation is currently suspended due to multiple requests to remove the judge.