Probe into Beirut blast frozen over judge impartiality suit, source says

World9 minutes ago (Sep 27, 2021 07:46AM ET)

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows the grain silo that was damaged during last year’s Beirut port blast, during sunset in Beirut, Lebanon, July 29, 2021. Picture taken July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) -A probe into the catastrophic explosion at Beirut port was frozen on Monday when a former minister wanted for questioning as a suspect filed a case questioning the lead investigator’s neutrality, a judicial source said.

The Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed swathes of Beirut. It was caused by a large quantity of explosive chemicals stored at a warehouse unsafely for years.

The judicial probe into the explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts ever recorded, has made no progress, angering many Lebanese including families of the victims who are furious that no senior officials have been held to account.

Judge Tarek Bitar was appointed lead investigator after the removal of his predecessor in February on similar grounds.

Bitar was notified on Monday of the case against him filed by former interior minister and current member of parliament Nohad Machnouk, the judicial source told Reuters.

“Now the sessions will be cancelled and Judge Bitar will stop looking at the file until the court of cassation decides either to accept the case or reject it,” the source said.

Probe into Beirut blast frozen over judge impartiality suit, source says

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