Court of Cassation Rejects Khalil, Zoaiter's Request for Bitar's Removal


The Civilian Court of Cassation on Monday dismissed a petition filed by ex-minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zoaiter for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, the lead investigative judge into the Beirut port blast.

The Court argued that it is not the right authority to look into the request seeing as Bitar is not one of its judges and that his jurisdiction does not make him affiliated with the public prosecution.

Lebanon's Court of Appeals had last Monday rejected similar lawsuits filed by Khalil, Zoaiter and ex-interior minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, in a decision that allowed Bitar to resume his work.

The subsequent lawsuits are part of a growing campaign by Lebanon's political class against the investigation into the devastating port explosion of Aug. 4, 2020. The blast heavily destroyed parts of Beirut, killed over 200 people and wounded over 6,000.

In their lawsuits, the three former ministers accused the judge of bias.

Families of the Beirut blast victims have welcomed the resumption of the probe, urging the judge to continue his investigation and appealing to the political class to let him do his job.

The ruling political class, accused by rights groups and the public of knowing about the explosive material stored at the port and doing little to protect against it, has closed ranks against Bitar and his predecessor. Both have wanted to interrogate senior political and security officials accused of negligence that led to the blast.

Bitar took over the job in February after judge Fadi Sawwan was also removed from his post following similar legal challenges by senior officials.

Various political leaders have accused Bitar of politicizing the investigation, violating the constitution by ignoring immunity granted to lawmakers and government officials, and by going after some officials and not others.

The suspension of the probe, and the repeated attempts to obstruct it, had angered families of the victims killed in the explosion who called Bitar's probe the last hope they have in Lebanon's judiciary. They say the investigation has been marred by repeated political interference and failure to bring officials to justice.

Comments 4
Missing cedars 11 October 2021, 13:57

Those ministers received a visit from wafiq safa and ignored the nitrate memo upon safa request that they will be removed from their posts.
They refuse to say who threatened them at that time.

Thumb lebanon_first 11 October 2021, 19:02

Mark my words. Bitar will run for parliamentarian! He is standing alone against all the politicians!

Thumb justice 11 October 2021, 20:30

Bitar is Salim Jreisati prodige. He is Aouni by blood. In his earlier years, he was hardcore SSNP and was SSNP candidate at the University.

Thumb justice 12 October 2021, 04:34