"How dare you launch accusations against the relatives of the victims" of the explosion at the Port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, "when each of us has lost a martyr far more precious and superior than your counterfeited ministerial position?" the families of the blast's victims said in a statement issued Sunday.
Accused by caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury on Thursday in a television interview of being "on the embassies' payroll" after a demonstration Wednesday night in front of his house, the relatives of the victims of the Aug. 4 tragedy responded in a statement Sunday and demanded an apology.
"By what right is this campaign launched against us? We tell you: we are not the ones who work with embassies to receive this or that aid, nor are we the ones who travel in secure convoys with luxury cars, nor are we the ones who trade in the blood of the victims," the families replied in their statement. "How dare you make accusations against the relatives of victims, when each of us has lost a martyr, much more precious and superior than your counterfeited ministerial position? You must apologize for your unjust and wrong words, we will not accept anything but that," they continued, addressing Khoury directly.
"We condemn all the false accusations made against us, which harm more the one who makes them than us," wrote the relatives of the victims of the tragedy that killed more than 220 people and injured 6,500 others. Khoury was "a judge and he is currently a minister, he is supposed to base everything he says on concrete facts," they added.
The collective also referred to the ongoing controversy around a decision taken last Tuesday by the Higher Judicial Council, based on a proposal sent by Khoury, to appoint a different judge to the investigation of the Aug. 4 tragedy, which is presently entrusted to Tarek Bitar. "We also address the council which approved a suspicious decision of the justice minister. Where are your conscience and probity? Should the law change according to the amount of money received from politicians and your personal goals? Do you have the right to create a law according to what suits you best?" said the families of the victims, who have been mobilizing since the announcement of this decision, both against the justice minister and against Souheil Abboud, president of the Higher Judicial Council.
A new finance minister
The relatives of the victims also claimed "to have contacted the Lebanese Judges Association, the Beirut Bar Association and honest deputies, without political pressure" to discuss this issue. They referred to "a proposal by the Lebanese Judges Association to appoint a new finance minister, not politicized and not affiliated with any political party, who will do his duty."
Caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil has been regularly blamed for obstructing Bitar's investigation because he has not signed a decree that would allow the appointment of several members of the General Assembly of the Court of Cassation, the highest court of the judiciary, which is responsible for examining all the appeals launched against Bitar by politicians. These numerous appeals are preventing the investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, incident from moving forward, and the investigation is still struggling to make progress more than two years after the incident.
Earlier in the day, Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai also accused Khalil of obstructing the investigation, to which the Finance Ministry responded by saying that it had referred the draft decree in question to the judicial authorities.
"How dare you launch accusations against the relatives of the victims" of the explosion at the Port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, "when each of us has lost a martyr far more precious and superior than your counterfeited ministerial position?" the families of the blast's victims said in a statement issued Sunday.Accused by caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury on Thursday in a television interview...