Lebanese lawmakers suspended investigations into the incident on Friday. Beirut Port Explosion, Less than a month after its first anniversary, asked for more evidence before the exemption from the former minister could be lifted.
On August 4 last year, hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded at the Beirut Port terminal, causing more than 200 deaths and thousands of injuries. Large areas of the capital were destroyed.
After that, officials learned that the explosive substance had not been stored safely in the port for many years.
Earlier this month, the chief justice of the case, Tareq Bitar, stated that he had asked the parliament to improve the immune system Former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former Public Works Minister Ghazizait and former Interior Minister Nohad Mahnuk.
Bitar said he was considering possible charges of “possibly murderous intent” and “negligence.”
Bitar’s request to question Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of the powerful general security agency, was rejected by the Minister of the Caretaker of the Interior, Mohamed Fahmi, in a letter to the Minister of Justice.
Ibrahim said in a statement that he is bound by the law like all Lebanese, but the investigation should be “away from narrow political considerations”.
Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli said that the Parliament’s Administrative and Judicial Committee met on Friday and decided to “require all evidence available in the investigation and all documents proving suspicion”.
He said that once a reply is received, the committee will meet again to decide whether to waive the immunity.
Lawyer and activist Nizar Saghieh stated that the committee’s request violated the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature and “violated the confidentiality of investigations.”
“They just want to buy time,” he accused.
Ayman Rad, a lawyer representing an explosion victim, told Al Jazeera in Beirut that Lebanese law requires that judges investigating the explosion must be authorized by their superiors to question civil servants.
“The Minister of the Interior refused to allow the judge to question General Ibrahim, saying that he believed that the general was not at fault,” Rad said.
“The choice of law is… the attorney general asks the chief judge to bypass the minister’s refusal permission and authorize the chief investigator to question the general. This is what is required now.
“But because of the politicization of the legal system…I don’t think this will happen soon,” he said.
The hashtag #lift_immunity_now became popular in Lebanon as protesters gathered outside the house of Nabih Berri, the speaker of the parliament where the committee meeting was held.
“The immunity must be lifted immediately,” said Ibrahim Hoteit, a representative of the families of the victims in the bombing.
The activist who lost his brother in the disaster said it was “shameful” to delay the decision given the scale of the crime.
After media reports stated that the caretaker minister did not allow Bitar to question senior intelligence officer Abbas Ibrahim about the bombing, the protesters then proceeded to the Ministry of Interior.
The minister’s office did not make any statement.
Ibrahim said he “cannot be above the law” but urged to oppose any “political calculations.”
The outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab (Hassan Diab) has been accused of participating in the investigation, and Bitar has summoned him for questioning.
The judge also stated that he is considering interrogating the former Minister of Public Works Yousef Feignanos.
Human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations to investigate the bombing.
After his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawan responded to his request in February against the two former ministers accused of the bombing, Bitar became the chief investigator of the bombing.
Sawan accused the three former ministers and outgoing prime minister Hassan Diab of negligence. But they refused to be questioned as a suspect, accusing him of exceeding his authority.