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Nasrallah criticizes port blast investigating judge Bitar for ‘refusal to step down’ from post

Nasrallah criticizes port blast investigating judge Bitar for ‘refusal to step down’ from post

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaking on television. (AFP archive/Al-Manar)

BEIRUT — Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday criticized lead port blast judge Tarek Bitar, without explicitly naming him, in a televised address on the two-year anniversary of the Aug. 4 explosion, saying the judge was at fault for his “refusal to step down” from the stalled investigation.

Here’s what we know:

    • In a speech during the sixth day of Ashoura, Nasrallah said that the port blast investigation must rely on more than the one judge currently in charge. “Aren’t there other respectable judges with experience and who are not suspicious?” he said, in an apparent reference to Bitar, current head of the investigation. “This judge is suspicious. Why is the investigation obstructed? Because this judge would not step down,” Nasrallah added. Bitar’s predecessor, judge Fadi Sawan, was removed from his position by the Court of Cassation in February 2021 after two former ministers he had charged with criminal negligence requested that the case be transferred to a new judge.

    • Nasrallah also criticized “political and media organizations” that he said had “hijacked” the port explosion and “employed it politically since the early hours.”

    • He then raised the issue of those arrested after the blast, which included the former Customs director, whom he said were targeted for “political” reasons. "You must avoid politicizing this file if you want to reach the truth,” Nasrallah said.

    • Since being appointed the head of the investigation after Sawan, Bitar has repeatedly sought to bring top officials and sitting MPs in for questioning. 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 stored improperly in a port warehouse for years. The blast killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and destroyed or damaged buildings across the Lebanese capital. The investigation is currently suspended due to multiple requests to remove Bitar from his post.


BEIRUT — Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday criticized lead port blast judge Tarek Bitar, without explicitly naming him, in a televised address on the two-year anniversary of the Aug. 4 explosion, saying the judge was at fault for his “refusal to step down” from the stalled investigation.Here’s what we know:    • In a speech during the sixth day of Ashoura,...