Report: Bitar to issue arrest warrants against top officials, judges

Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar is readying to issue new arrest warrants in the case despite the latest judicial storm, media reports said.

“Bitar called in his clerk to his office at the Justice Palace on Wednesday to prepare arrest warrants that he intends to issue in two batches, on February 6 and 8,” al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Friday.

The arrest warrants will be issued against ex-PM Hassan Diab, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, State Security head Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat and another judge should they fail to appear before him on the dates he has set, the daily added.

“Bitar is mulling the best way to guarantee reaching his office on February 6 and 8 and he is refusing to hold discussions with anyone regarding the file,” al-Akhbar said.

Bitar took Lebanon by surprise on January 23 when he resumed his investigation after a 13-month hiatus, charging eight new suspects including high-level security officials and Lebanon's top prosecutor Oueidat. Bitar also scheduled interrogation sessions for ex-PM Diab and former ministers who had been previously charged.

Bitar said he based his decision on a legal review that he himself conducted. A top security official meanwhile said that the Lebanese judiciary had come under U.S. pressure to free detainees in the case, including dual Lebanese-U.S. citizen Ziad al-Ouf.

The week before reopening the case, Bitar had met with two French judges for hours about his investigation. According to a judicial official, the delegation suggested Bitar should resume work, arguing that holding suspects in detention without trial was a human rights violation.

Bitar's surprise move sparked a judicial battle with Oueidat, who retaliated by charging the judge with "usurping power" and insubordination and slapping him with a travel ban. A defiant Bitar meanwhile stressed that he would not step down, adding that Oueidat "has no authority" to intervene in the case.

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