BEIRUT — On the monthly anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2020, families of the victims of the Beirut port explosion gathered outside the port Tuesday, for the monthly vigil marking the blast, and called Judge Tarek Bitar “the master of his case,” stating that “with the bold and impartial judge, the truth will not be lost.”
The blast killed over 200, wounded thousands and ravaged entire neighborhoods. It’s been over two years since the explosion, with no one yet held accountable.
Earlier in September, a decision by the Higher Judicial Council was made to appoint an alternate investigative judge in the blast probe.
The Beirut Bar Association rejected the decision of the Higher Judicial Council.
"After the appointment of an investigating judge at the Court of Justice, in accordance with the law and in order for him to carry out a specific mission, it is not possible to appoint a substitute judge," the body said after a meeting chaired by the President of the Beirut Bar Association Nader Gaspard. The Bar Association invoked the "need to respect the laws and principles governing the courts," adding that "the investigation cannot be conducted by several investigators."
According to them, the leaders must "protect the magistrates, respect the law and the essential principles far from politicization and clientelism."
Almost two years after the tragedy, the investigation has been stalled by multiple political maneuvers and is currently suspended due to the different complaints filed against Bitar, notably by MPs Ghazi Zeaiter, Ali Hassan Khalil and former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos — who are all suspects in the investigation and have had warrants filed for their arrest. Despite them being suspects in the investigation, Zeaiter and Khalil were elected to Lebanon's Parliament in May 2022.
Caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil, who is close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, was accused of impeding the investigation by not signing judicial appointments, which have been blocked for several months for political reasons, putting the port blast probe on hold.