BEIRUT — Around a dozen family members of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast victims gathered Thursday in front of the Justice Palace, calling for authorities to continue the investigation, which has been stalled by judiciary blockages.
The family members held up pictures of their deceased loved ones, protesting under the banner "Free the investigation," according to L'Orient-Le Jour's reporter at the scene.
They then met Souhail Abboud, head of the Higher Judicial Council, which is the body with legal power to unblock the case.
"We have met him because we thought that the investigation was stopped and frozen. But we understood from him that this is not the case," said a spokesperson for the victims' relatives.
"If the investigation does not continue, we will take to the international community. We will not abandon this cause either in Lebanon or at the international level," she added.
The judge in charge of the investigation, Tarek Bitar, announced in January that he was retaking control of the stalled investigation after it had been suspended for more than a year due to numerous requests by senior politicians who had been summoned in the probe.
Bitar explained at the time that he decided to seek ways to recover control of the investigation, also noting deadlock amid the legal actions against him. One of the people Bitar had charged in January was Lebanon's top prosecutor judge Ghassan Oueidat.
In reaction, Oueidat ordered the release of all 17 suspects in the case, detained without a trial since the 2020 deadly explosion, which left more than 220 people dead and injured 6,500. Oueidat also prosecuted Bitar for "rebellion against justice" and "usurpation of power."
Bitar then decided in February to postpone hearings of former ministers and military and administrative officials implicated in the case.