Washington imposes sanctions on a Lebanese deputy and two businessmen

The judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion, Judge Tariq Bitar, suspended, on Thursday, an interrogation session that was scheduled to hear former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, after being informed of the content of a lawsuit that the latter had filed against him, according to a judicial source.

The source told AFP that Bitar “was informed of Diab’s lawsuit against him, and he suspended the proceedings for the interrogation session that was scheduled for today until the General Authority of the Court of Cassation decided the case.”

Diab’s defense team had preceded his interrogation session with a lawsuit he submitted on Wednesday before the General Assembly of the Court of Cassation to “dispute the Lebanese state for grave errors” attributed to the judicial investigator.

The lawsuit was based, according to a judicial source, on two points, the first is that the crime of the port explosion “is not within the jurisdiction of the Judicial Council” and the second accuses Al-Bitar of “violating a constitutional provision that limits the prosecution of presidents and ministers to the Supreme Council for the trial of presidents and ministers only.”

Notification of Bitar Thursday of the content of the case, according to the source, requires stopping all proceedings to prosecute Diab, based on Article 751 of the Code of Civil Procedure, until the court decides on the basis of the case.

Diab had previously refrained from attending several interrogation sessions identified by Bitar since receiving the investigation file and his allegations against current and former political and security officials.

On August 26, Bitar signed a subpoena against Diab, after he failed to attend a scheduled interrogation session, in a move that sparked sharp political criticism, most notably from Hezbollah and former prime ministers.

At the time, Bitar assigned the security forces to bring Diab to his department in the Palace of Justice, 24 hours before the date of an interrogation session that he had set on September 20, but Diab anticipated the date of his interrogation by traveling to the United States for a family visit.

Since his allegations against Diab, former ministers and security officials, many fear that political pressure will lead to the ouster of Bitar, similar to his predecessor Fadi Sawan, who was removed in February after accusing political officials.

The huge explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which the authorities attributed to storing large quantities of ammonium nitrate without preventive measures, killed at least 214 people and injured more than 6,500 others, in addition to extensive destruction in the capital.

It later emerged that officials at several political, security and judicial levels were aware of the dangers of storing this substance and did nothing.

During the past months, Bitar’s attempts to interrogate political and security officials clashed with political interference and lawsuits, and the investigation was suspended more than once.

Several political forces criticize the course of the judicial investigation, but Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement, form the spearhead of this position, and they demand the removal of Bitar.

The two parties refuse the government to hold any session unless it is dedicated to discussing the position of the judicial investigator.

A protest demonstration against Bitar’s performance, organized by the two parties this month, and which was interspersed with heavy gunfire, which the military judiciary is investigating, ended with the killing of seven people, most of whom are affiliated with the two parties.

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