BEIRUT — Relatives of the firefighters who perished in the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast gathered Thursday in front of the Justice Palace, calling for authorities to continue the investigation, which has been stalled for months by judiciary blockages.
Dozens of family members were present at the protest, holding up pictures of their deceased loved ones.
Nazih Adem, the father of Krystel Adem, one of the victims, was present at the sit-in Thursday. He told L'Orient-Le Jour he blamed Lebanon's political class for "crucifying justice to bury the truth."
"We are not fighting this battle in our name alone, but because it is a national cause, which we support for future generations. If this crime goes unpunished, we risk seeing other victims," Adem said.
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.
"Even those who were wrongfully released are not immune from justice. They will be prosecuted even on the other side of the world," Nazih Adem, the protester, said.
Also at the Justice Palace, Cecile Roukoz, sister of one of the victims said: "We will not get tired, we came to ask that things resume where they left off."
Roukoz added that the relatives of the victims came to meet with the President of the Higher Judicial Council Souhail Abboud to ask him to question Tarek Bitar following accusations of usurpation of power launched against him by Oueidat.
"If he finds Judge Bitar guilty, he should withdraw from the investigation, but if not, he should be allowed to continue his investigation," she said.
On March 23, around a dozen family members of the Aug. 4 Beirut port blast victims also gathered in front of the Justice Palace, calling for authorities to continue the probe.
Reporting contributed by Claude Assaf from L'Orient-Le Jour.