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Prosecutor orders launch of Beirut port blast detainees


BEIRUT — Lebanon’s prime prosecutor Wednesday ordered all suspects detained within the investigation into the lethal 2020 port blast in Beirut launched, a lawyer for 2 detainees and judicial officers stated.

The transfer by chief prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat is one other blow to the investigation, which has stalled for years. The probe has threatened to rattle Lebanon’s ruling elite, which is rife with corruption and mismanagement and has helped push the nation into an unprecedented financial meltdown.

The choice got here after Choose Tarek Bitar on Monday resumed the investigation into the devastating port blast, following a 13-month halt over authorized challenges raised by politicians accused within the probe — together with the chief prosecutor.

Seventeen detainees have been held for years in pre-trial detention after the large port blast on Aug. 4, 2020. Lots of of tons of extremely explosive ammonium nitrate, a cloth utilized in fertilizers, detonated at Beirut Port, killing 218 individuals, injuring over 6,000 and damaging massive components of the Lebanese capital.

Lawyer Sakher El Hachem, who represents two of the detainees, instructed The Related Press that they obtained affirmation of the choice after inquiring to the judiciary, and that his shoppers can be launched Wednesday.

The judicial officers added that Ouweidat, who defied Bitar’s resolution to renew the paralyzed investigation, will press fees towards him. They spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to talk to the press.

Ouweidat didn’t instantly reply to calls from the AP looking for remark.

Choose Bitar is the second investigator to guide the probe into the port blast, and has charged over a dozen senior political, safety, port and safety officers.

On Monday, Bitar ordered the discharge of 5 of 17 detainees within the case and charged eight officers, amongst them prime intelligence officers Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, in addition to Oweidat.

The choose additionally summoned not less than 14 politicians and judicial, safety and customs officers for questioning in February. Senior officers have repeatedly refused to indicate up for questioning because the begin of the probe.

Bitar took his submit following the removing in February 2021 of Choose Fadi Sawwan over complaints of bias by two Cupboard ministers. If he’s additionally eliminated, it may very well be the ultimate blow to the investigation.

Lebanon’s political management have accused Bitar with out proof of being biased in his investigation, with some demanding his removing.

Related Press writers Abby Sewell and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

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