BEIRUT — Nearly 150 demonstrators gathered at Paris' Place de la République Saturday to commemorate the monthly anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion, demonstrator Audrey M-G. told L'Orient-Le Jour.
The first demonstration started at 4 p.m. Beirut time. Beirut blast victims' relatives planned another demonstration in front of Beirut port scheduled at 5 p.m.
The demonstrators called for progress in the investigation into the deadly blast that claimed more than 220 lives and injured more than 6,500 people. The investigation has faced incessant political and judicial interference.
Tracy and Paul Naggear, the parents of young Alexandra, who was killed in the blast, were present at the Paris demonstration, based on images Tracy was streaming live on her social media.
"It feels good that we are here together, as Lebanese and others," Paul Naggear was heard saying in a video supplied by Audrey M-G. One of the demonstrators, Savio Haykal, played Feyrouz tunes on the piano, beneath the statue of the Republic.
Several Lebanese emigrant groups organized a similar demonstration at Paris' Trocadero square Jan. 29.
In Lebanon, victims' relatives protest every 4th of the month to demand progress in the investigation, entrusted to the investigating judge Tarek Bitar but blocked by numerous appeals against him, filed by the very officials implicated in Bitar's probe.
The Beirut Bar Association's prosecution office revealed Feb. 23 that London's Magistrates' Court had handed down a judgement in favor of the victims of the explosion — a civil claim against Savaro Ltd, a chemical trading company that allegedly purchased the shipment of ammonium nitrate in Georgia. The chemicals were then improperly stored at Beirut port for around six years, setting the stage for the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion.
The General Prosecutor at the Lebanese Court of Cassation Ghassan Oueidat filed a lawsuit against Judge Bitar at the end of January, and decided to release all the suspects detained in the investigation, rekindling the victims' relatives' anger.
Prosecutor Oueidat's decisions were seen by many observers as a political act aimed at blocking the investigation in order to protect the political class, which a broad swathe of the population accuses of criminal negligence for having done nothing to prevent the explosion.