BEIRUT — After appearing before the judicial police at the Barbar al-Khazen barracks in the Verdun district of Beirut on Monday, nine of the 11 port blast victims' relatives, who had been summoned to answer charges of rioting, vandalism and damaging offices following a violent protest, were released in the same afternoon. The remaining two, William Noun and Peter Bou Saab, were transferred to State Security but were released later in the evening, our reporter at the State Security branch in Ramlet al-Baida said.
Noun and Bou Saab are being investigated in relation to a separate case, regarding comments they made on a television program. Noun was detained from Friday to Saturday in this case, before being released on bail.
From Ramlet al-Baida, Forces of Change MP Melhem Khalaf told local media, "We hope that the enthusiasm seen during the investigation of the victims' relatives, is seen when investigating the port explosion."
For his part, MP George Okaiss, who was also present at the barracks, said that "there is a high political will and closed chambers that want to bury the truth around the port explosion, and I invite victims' relatives to demand the resumption of the investigation that's been halted for a year and three months."
'I am an impulsive man'
Speaking to local media following his release, Noun said, "We demand justice for Aug. 4 [explosion] and I am responsible for everything I say and I am an impulsive man."
On Monday, 13 relatives of the victims had been summoned following a protest, organized last Tuesday, which had degenerated into scuffles with the security forces. The relatives were protesting the suspension, for over a year, of the investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion.
Meanwhile, the work of the investigating judge in charge of this case, Tarek Bitar, continues to be disrupted by political maneuvers.
The 13 summoned people are William Noun, Georges Hitti, Oussama Fakih, Kiyan Tleis, Majid Helou, Elie Mallahi, Abdo Matta, Elie Bou Saab, Peter Bou Saab, the lawyer Pierre Gemayel, the lawyer Cecile Roukoz, Antoine Salamé and Charbel Wardeh. Only 11 of the 13 appeared before the judicial police, as the Beirut Bar refused to allow its members, the two lawyers, to appear before the investigators.
Sit-in in Verdun
In solidarity, other family members of the victims, activists and MPs demonstrated in front of the Verdun barracks. MPs Michel Douaihy, Cynthia Zarazir, Mark Daou and Najat Saliba were among those present.
In front of the Verdun barracks, Cecile Roukoz lamented that "since Dec. 23, 2021, everything has stopped after former ministers Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil have presented an appeal for dismissal" against the magistrate Bitar. "The Lebanese must move," she pleaded.
"We are in a police and militia state. They are trying to silence us, but we will continue to fight until the end," Peter Bou Saab told L'Orient Today upon arrival, noting that another protest is also planned for Thursday in front of the Parliament building, as MPs are scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. for an 11th session to try electing a new president.
"They have been trying to buy time for two years. They think they will succeed in tiring us. But what they don't understand is that our sadness has turned into anger. That's why we are strong. This technique of taking us to court strengthens us and makes the Lebanese angry," said Maria Fares, Noun's fiancee whose sister Sahar also died in the blast.
The mother of one of the blast victims, who gave her name as Umm Ahmad, regretted the fact that people protesting the stalled investigation are "dragged to the police stations, while the wanted ones are not prosecuted because they have political immunity."
"Even if they arrest us, we will continue to fight for the truth," she said.
Reporting contributed by Lyana Alameddine and Mohamad Yassin
BEIRUT — After appearing before the judicial police at the Barbar al-Khazen barracks in the Verdun district of Beirut on Monday, nine of the 11 port blast victims' relatives, who had been summoned to answer charges of rioting, vandalism and damaging offices following a violent protest, were released in the same afternoon. The remaining two, William Noun and Peter Bou Saab, were transferred to...