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PORT EXPLOSION INVESTIGATION

'I will not let go until the indictment is issued,' Bitar says

'I will not let go until the indictment is issued,' Bitar says

Lead investigator in the 2020 Beirut port blast probe, Tarek Bitar. (Credit: NNA)

BEIRUT — Lead investigator into the 2020 Beirut port blast, Tarek Bitar, "will not let go of the case until the indictment is issued," the judge told L'Orient-Le Jour Wednesday. He denounced "the blatant violation of the law," after Lebanon's top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat  initiated proceedings against him and ordered the release of all blast detainees.

Bitar added, however, that the indictment's release "is not imminent."

The public prosecutor Wednesday ordered the release of all 17 suspects detained without a trial since the 2020 deadly explosion, which left more than 220 people dead and injured 6,500. Bitar, who decided Monday to resume his investigation (suspended for 13 months due to political pressure), is being prosecuted for "rebellion against justice" and "usurpation of power," according to Oueidat.

Bitar is also banned from leaving the country.

"Oueidat withdrew from the port investigation and the Court of Cassation accepted that he withdraw," said Judge Bitar. "In addition, I have initiated proceedings against him," adding that Oueidat is therefore a suspect. 

Lebanon's top prosecutor at the Court of Cassation had initially withdrawn from the case, on the grounds that he has a family relationship with Ghazi Zeaiter, one of the MPs implicated by Bitar.

Regarding his travel ban, Bitar said that "it is Abbas Ibrahim, in his capacity as Director General of General Security who must execute this decision." Abbas Ibrahim "has no right to do so since I have initiated proceedings against him."

Oueidat informed Bitar Tuesday that his investigation into the port explosion remains suspended, according to correspondence consulted by Reuters.

"He has no right to say that I am no longer on the case," Bitar said. "My dismissal is the prerogative of the minister of justice and the Supreme Judicial Council together."

Contacted by L'Orient-Le Jour, Shukri Sader, a former member of the Shura Council, corroborated Bitar's claims, saying prosecutor Oueidat had recused himself from the case.

"Oueidat forgot that he had recused himself and now wants to take over the case. This is unprecedented in judicial history, worldwide," Sader said. "It is a real Tower of Babel."

"We have never seen an investigating judge attack the public prosecutor and vice versa. A cockfight, which leads to what? It undermines the authority of the judiciary," Sader added. "This power that has been targetted continuously since the 90s, and which ends up collapsing from within."



BEIRUT — Lead investigator into the 2020 Beirut port blast, Tarek Bitar, "will not let go of the case until the indictment is issued," the judge told L'Orient-Le Jour Wednesday. He denounced "the blatant violation of the law," after Lebanon's top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat  initiated proceedings against him and ordered the release of all blast detainees.Bitar added, however, that the...