French judges denied entry to Lebanese blast investigation, Lebanese supply says

BEIRUT – French judges visiting Beirut this week as a part of an investigation into an enormous port explosion in 2020 have been denied entry to paperwork from the Lebanese probe as a result of it stays frozen, a senior Lebanese judicial supply stated on Thursday.

The Lebanese investigation into the explosion that killed 220 individuals and shattered Beirut has been frozen for a 12 months, derailed by political resistance from ruling factions and authorized challenges in opposition to the lead investigator Choose Tarek Bitar.

The 2 French judges have been in Beirut as a part of an investigation opened by the French prosecutor’s workplace as a result of there have been French nationals among the many casualties, together with two useless, a French diplomatic supply stated.

Bitar instructed the visiting judges he was unable to share info till he was allowed to renew his inquiry, the supply stated. He would give you the option share info not ruled by secrecy guidelines as soon as the probe resumed, the Lebanese supply added.

Reuters couldn’t attain the judges for remark.

The explosion, probably the most highly effective non-nuclear blasts on file, was attributable to a whole bunch of tonnes of ammonium nitrate unloaded on the port in 2013.

Lebanese efforts to research the explosion have encountered robust political pushback.


Bitar has sought to query senior politicians, together with members of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Motion, Hassan Diab – prime minister on the time of the blast – and high safety official Main-Common Abbas Ibrahim.

All of them, together with former ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter, have denied wrongdoing and stated Bitar doesn’t have the ability to quiz them, arguing they’ve immunity.

The probe has been in full limbo since early 2022 as a result of retirement of judges from a court docket that should rule on a number of complaints in opposition to Bitar, submitted by officers he has sought to query, earlier than he can proceed.

The highly effective Shi’ite group Hezbollah, a number of of whose allies are amongst these Bitar needs to query, has additionally opposed him.

A high Hezbollah official stated in 2021 the group would take away Bitar from the probe, whereas Hezbollah’s chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated was biased and must be changed.

The court docket of cassation eliminated Bitar’s predecessor, Choose Fadi Sawan, in 2021 following high-level political strain.

The Lebanese supply stated the French judges requested in regards to the delay and when the probe would resume.

The French judges additionally met attorneys representing households of the victims, who’re campaigning for accountability, stated Cecile Roukoz, one of many attorneys.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Enhancing by Alex Richardson)