Beirut (AFP) – On Thursday, the Lebanese judiciary dismissed four cases brought by officials against the judicial investigator, Judge Tariq Al-Bitar, according to a judicial source told AFP, which means that it is now able to resume the investigation into the explosion in the port of Beirut after a three-week hiatus.
The source said that the General Authority of the Court of Cassation rejected the two lawsuits submitted by former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and Representative Nohad Al-Machnouk, to quarrel with the state over the grave mistakes Bitar committed against them.
It considered that the latter did not commit any mistake that warrants the state’s prosecution, and obligated both Diab and Al-Machnouk to pay one million pounds to the state in compensation for damages and holidays.
The authority also rejected a lawsuit against the state, which was filed by MPs Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zuaiter, obligating each of them to pay one million pounds in compensation for damage to the state.
For its part, the Criminal Court of Cassation rejected a lawsuit filed by former Minister Youssef Fenianos, against whom an arrest warrant was issued, requesting that the file of the explosion in the port of Beirut be transferred from the custody of Al-Bitar due to legitimate suspicion.
The five officials are among the defendants in the Beirut port explosion, which killed more than 215 people and injured more than 6,500, in addition to extensive destruction in the port and neighborhoods of the capital.
Once he is informed of the decisions to dismiss the cases, Al-Bitar can resume the investigation suspended since the fourth of this month.
The investigation into the port explosion was plunged into the labyrinths of politics and then into judicial chaos. Since he received the investigation about a year ago, 16 lawsuits have been pursued by Judge Tariq Al-Bitar, which were submitted to various courts, demanding that he stop his hand and transfer the case to another judge, and led to the suspension of the investigation several times.
After the courts dismissed several cases for various reasons, the judges found themselves subject to lawsuits brought by the defendants’ officials to question the correctness of their decisions.
In a related context, the General Authority of the Court of Cassation headed by the President of the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Suhail Abboud, identified the first chamber of the Court of Cassation headed by Judge Naji Eid as the valid reference to consider the response cases filed against Al-Bitar, in isolation from other courts.
This step comes, according to the judicial source, “to reduce attempts to obstruct the ongoing investigation and prevent more time from being wasted.”
On Wednesday, three female judges had submitted their resignations to the Supreme Judicial Council, according to what a judicial source told AFP earlier Thursday, “in protest against the difficult situation that the judiciary has reached, political interference in the work of the judiciary and questioning the decisions issued by judges and courts in most of the files.” Especially the harbor explosion.
The investigation into the Beirut port explosion showed the extent of the weakness of the judicial body in Lebanon and the ability of politics to interfere in its work, unless it serves its directions.
© 2021 AFP