Lebanon court rejects suits over Beirut blast by former PM, ministers

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the grain silo that was damaged during last year's Beirut port blast, during sunset in Beirut
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. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

November 25, 2021

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A top Lebanese court Thursday rejected lawsuits filed by a former prime minister and three former ministers seeking to sue the state over the conduct of the judge probing the deadly August 2020 Beirut blast, a senior judicial source told Reuters.

The suits, filed over the past month, had paused Judge Tarek Bitar’s investigation but he still remains unable to proceed due to a separate judicial ruling that is still pending, lawyer Nizar Saghieh of watchdog group Legal Agenda told Reuters.

The general assembly of Lebanon’s Court of Cassation rejected the suits filed by former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and former ministers Nohad Machnouk, Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hasan Khalil that alleged “grave mistakes,” in the probe.

All have been charged in connection with the blast but have denied any wrongdoing and have refused to be interrogated by Judge Tarek Bitar, arguing he does not have the authority to prosecute them.

Bitar does not give public statements in line with regulations for judges.

Families of Beirut blast victims who have visited Bitar say he told them he would continue to seek to interrogate top officials until he was removed from the case.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Timour Azhari; Editing by Alison Williams)