BEIRUT — Demonstrators, including relatives of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion's victims, gathered Thursday morning in front of the Beirut Justice Palace, two days after a protest at the same location in which several participants were summoned for questioning on charges of rioting, vandalism and damaging offices.
The protesters on Thursday demanded, once again, progress in the investigation into the blast which remains at a standstill, obstructed by political interference. They also criticized the potential appointment of an alternate judge to the investigation by members of the Higher Judicial Council.
The HJC is looking to replace the lead judge in the blast investigation, Tarek Bitar, in order to rule on requests to release some of those who are detained without trial in the blast case.
Four members of the HJC had called for a meeting on Thursday to decide on said appointment, but the meeting didn't take place due to lack of quorum.
'How can they be peaceful?'
About 150 people were seen standing calmly on Thursday in front of the courthouse. Dozens of law enforcement officers were deployed behind the courthouse's gate.
"We will not forget," "To hold the port's criminals accountable" and "For an international investigation," demonstrators wrote on signs, accompanied by portraits of their relatives who died in the blast.
Meanwhile, Rasha al-Ameer, the sister of activist and political commentator Lokman Slim, who was assassinated two years ago in South Lebanon, was also participating in the protest outside the courthouse, demanding an end to impunity.
MPs also joined, including MPs Waddah Sadek (Forces of Change/Beirut II), Sami Gemayel (Kataeb/Metn) and Elias Hankach (Kataeb/Metn). "How can we expect the relatives of the victims of the explosion to be peaceful?" Hankach told local media.
William Noun, brother of firefighter Joe Noun who was killed in the blast, also said: "We won this time and we thank the judges who caused the loss of a quorum."
"The problem is not with the judges or the courthouse, our problem is with those who want to obstruct the investigation," he continued.
Earlier, he said the victims' relatives were "ready to escalate and break the courthouse" if a substitute judge is appointed. "Those who died are not numbers. The courthouse is for justice!" he continued.
Noun was among the blast victims' relatives summoned on Wednesday for questioning. However, Noun did not attend his hearing today.
Commenting these developments, Amnesty MENA on Thursday condemned Lebanon's judiciary for "acting swiftly to penalize" relatives of the Beirut explosion victims.
Additional reporting by João Sousa