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PORT INVESTIGATION

State security interrogates William Noun after violent protest on Tuesday

A member of the families of the victims says that Noun deliberately went to the State Security branch in Dekwaneh and was not brought by force.

State security interrogates William Noun after violent protest on Tuesday

William Noun, a spokesperson for one of the groups representing the relatives of the victims of the Beirut port blast, during a protest in Beirut, on Jan. 12, 2023. (Credit: Joao Sousa / L'Orient Today)

BEIRUT —State Security on Friday detained William Noun, a spokesperson for one of the groups representing the relatives of the victims of the Beirut port blast, for investigation, a source at State Security told L'Orient Today.

Noun's interrogation follows a protest on Tuesday that escalated into a confrontation with security forces.

On Tuesday a group of families of the victims of the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion protested the long suspension of the blast investigation led by Judge Tarek Bitar.

The protesters clashed with security forces and threw stones and other objects at the Beirut Justice Palace, breaking windows.

Some of them, including Noun and Peter Bou Saab, brothers of firefighters Joe Noun and Joe Bou Saab who were deployed to the port just ahead of the blast, have been summoned for investigation by the judicial police on charges of rioting, vandalism and damaging offices.

The State Security source said Noun is being investigated but has not yet been arrested. When asked if Noun was brought from his house as some local media reported, the source refused to comment. "Either way he is with us, so it doesn't matter," the source said.

A member of the families of the victims told L'Orient Today on condition of anonymity because they fear arrest, that Noun was called for investigation and that he deliberately went to the State Security branch in Dekwaneh and was not brought by force. He also said that Noun's house was searched while he was being investigated.

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According to another source among the families of the victims, Noun was first investigated in the State Security branch in Dekwaneh, before being transferred to the Ramlet al-Baida branch in Beirut.

Activists and families of the victims have called for a protest in front of the State Security building in Ramlet al-Baida, in solidarity with Noun.

'Effrontery'

Earlier today, a rival group representing the relatives of the victims of the Beirut port blast condemned the summoning of members of its rival group for investigation.

In their statement, a group of the families of the victims condemned summoning members of the rival groups and described it as "effrontery" by the judiciary.

"We condemn this arbitrary measure against them and we warn against any arrest or else we will act as one body in spite of our disagreements over judge [Bitar] " the statement added.

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Speaking to L'Orient Today, Hoteit explained that though they are against any confrontation with the security forces "who are our brothers, it is understandable why the families reacted this way years after the explosion without any justice being reached in the case."

On Thursday, the families protested again in front of Beirut Justice Palace against an attempt to appoint an alternate judge to Bitar, who is currently suspended.

The Higher Judicial Council was scheduled to meet that day to appoint an alternate judge for Bitar who could decide on liberation requests from suspects still detained; however, not all the members attended the meeting and so quorum was not met.

Hoteit said that his group is against the appointment of an alternate judge because the rival group "can file a request against [the new judge] and the investigation would be suspended again."

"The solution is by appointing another judge who would summon every suspect or for the current judge to start doing this," he said.

Hoteit's group accuses Bitar of being biased in his summoning of senior authorities and arrests. They notably criticize the fact that former army chief Jean Kahwaji, who was summoned for investigation, has not been arrested.

Currently, the port investigation is suspended due to numerous requests against Bitar from senior politicians who were called for investigation.

BEIRUT —State Security on Friday detained William Noun, a spokesperson for one of the groups representing the relatives of the victims of the Beirut port blast, for investigation, a source at State Security told L'Orient Today. Noun's interrogation follows a protest on Tuesday that escalated into a confrontation with security forces.On Tuesday a group of families of the victims of the Aug. 4,...