Lebanese MPs accused of Beirut blast ‘cover up’ over trial move


Critics say the special judicial body’s parliamentary move to prosecute officials in the Beirut port blast case protects them from prosecution.

Beirut, Lebanon Dozens of Lebanese lawmakers have pledged support for a parliamentary motion allowing a special judicial body to investigate last year’s Beirut port blasts and investigate caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and four former ministers, but legal activists and The families of the blast victims slammed the move as an effort to save officials from accountability.

On August 4 last year, a Beirut port explosion killed more than 200 people, injured nearly 6,500 and flattened a part of the Lebanese capital. Many officials blamed hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate being stored at the port, which led to the explosion and explosion.

A judicial source told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that at least 50 lawmakers initially signed a motion to prosecute officials in the Supreme Council, a judicial body charged with impeachment cases.

In addition to Diab, the source said the four former ministers included in the proposal are former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, former public works ministers Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Finianos and former interior minister Nauhad Machnouk. Khalil, Zeiter and Machnouk are currently MPs.

The source said the council, which includes eight senior judges in addition to seven legislators appointed by their peers, has “never tried to have a minister, speaker or legislator in its history”. And critics see the move as an attempt to undermine an already stalled judicial inquiry.

Earlier in July, Judge Tarek Bitter, who was leading the judicial investigation into the blast, requested the removal of the immunity of several senior politicians and former and current security officials so that he could prosecute them on suspicion of criminal negligence, Might as well possibly kill. intended to explode.

However, if former ministers are called to the Supreme Council, Betar will be unable to charge them.

Legislators supporting the resolution say it is in line with Lebanon’s constitution.

‘fraudulent move’

A judicial source said the support of 61 MPs is needed for the resolution to be passed by a simple majority. Speaker Nabih Beri has yet to announce when Parliament will be convened next.

The source expects parliament to vote to move the matter to the Supreme Council, but said legislators may block the next move, which would require two-thirds of parliament to vote for the Supreme Council to convene them. .

“It is clear that this is an attempt to end the investigation,” the source said.

The families of those killed in the blast are outraged by the news.

21-year-old Mahdi Zahraldine, whose brother Imad was killed in the blast, told Al Jazeera: “We completely reject and condemn this cover-up of the crime of the century.”

“I have faith that Judge Tarek Bitter will not remain silent about this.”

Local watchdog Legal Agenda said it had identified 30 lawmakers who supported the motion, calling them a “shame list”, and said the move would protect accused officials from prosecution.

“The legal agenda considers this a fraudulent move to smuggle suspects from judicial investigator Tarek Bitter,” it said.

Future Movement MP Mohamed Hajjar, who signed the resolution, told Al Jazeera that they were only following Lebanese law, adding that they always supported an international investigation.

“Lebanese law is clear, and no one is above the constitution,” he said.

MPs Salim Sadeh, Sammy Fatfat, Dima Jamali, Adnan Traboulsi and Nicolas Nahas have withdrawn from the motion since the news broke.

Other lawmakers who signed their names on the resolution have not responded to Al Jazeera’s calls.

demand for international investigation

The parliamentary motion to Judge Bitar is the latest hurdle she has faced since announcing legal proceedings against high-ranking current and former political and security officials earlier this month.

Acting Interior Minister Mohamed Fahmi rejected Bitter’s request for the interrogation of General Security Chief Major-General Abbas Ibrahim.

Prior to Betar’s appointment, the Lebanese Court of Cassation removed Judge Fadi Sawan from leading the investigation into the devastating blast in February after Khalil and Zeiter filed a legal complaint against him.

He argued that Sawan could not be fair as his house was damaged in the blast.

Rights groups say the latest parliamentary resolution further justifies their call for an international inquiry, arguing that the country’s political parties will continue to hinder local investigations.

“As long as the current system in Lebanon remains in place, the hope of seeing justice through a domestic process is incredibly slim,” Human Rights Watch Lebanon researcher Aya Mazjoub told Al Jazeera.

“We need an international investigation free from the constraints of domestic Lebanese politics and Judge Bitter has already acted.”

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