Former Lebanese minister allied with Hezbollah calls for replacement of port explosions judge
BEIRUT – A former Lebanese government minister has asked the country’s highest court to dismiss the senior judge investigating last year’s massive explosion in the port of Beirut over alleged “legitimate suspicion” over his treatment of the case, state media report.
The development is the latest in a year-long saga surrounding the explosion investigation, which plunged Lebanon into yet another political crisis and accelerated an already unprecedented economic collapse.
The country’s government resigned after the explosion on August 4, 2020, and it was only this month that political parties agreed on a new government.
Additionally, months after the investigation began, the senior investigating judge was removed from his post by the Court of Cassation after similar charges were brought against him by senior government officials.
The petition presented today by former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos comes a week after Judge Tarek Bitar issued an arrest warrant against him after he failed to appear in court for questioning.
It is not clear whether the Court of Cassation will take up Fenianos’ trial, and if so, it will have to consider the case and then decide whether to reject or accept the claim.
The judge charged Fenianos and three other former senior government officials with intentional murder and negligence which resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people in the blast. More than 6,000 people were injured in the massive explosion that also devastated much of Beirut.
Fenianos is a senior official of the Marada Christian Movement, a close ally of the powerful Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. He said in a statement, released by the Lebanese state-owned news agency, that his petition was motivated by “a concern for justice” and accuses an anonymous party of wanting to “blame me as the former public works minister. “for the explosion. .
However, the petition is severely criticized by human rights activists and angered the families of the victims, who claim it is another ploy to “prevent the truth”.
“It is scandalous that Lebanese politicians think they can just replace a judge whenever he tries to hold them accountable until a judge is appointed to their liking,” says Aya Majzoub, Lebanese researcher at Human Rights Watch.