New Lawsuit Filed against Judge Looking into Bitar Recusal Request


The lawyers of MPs Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zoaiter on Monday filed a new lawsuit before the Court of Cassation against the head of the court’s First Chamber, Judge Naji Eid, the National News Agency said.

Eid is looking into a recusal request against Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar.

NNA noted that the new lawsuit against Eid, the fourth of its kind, will force the suspension of Eid’s task.

Seventeen months since the monster port blast ripped through Beirut, Bitar has been beset by numerous lawsuits, mostly filed against him by officials demanding his removal.

The August 4, 2020 explosion of a shipment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer stored haphazardly in a port warehouse for years killed at least 215 people and disfigured the capital.

Top political and security officials were aware of the threat posed by the stored chemicals but failed to take action.

In February 2021, Fadi Sawwan, the judge initially appointed to lead the probe, was removed from the case after chasing some of the country's top brass.

Bitar succeeded him, and has since faced similar hurdles amid a concerted political campaign to force his removal.

Officials he had summoned on charges of negligence have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against him, forcing him to suspend his probe several times.

They include several ex-ministers, two of whom were hit with arrest warrants in recent months after they failed to show up for questioning.

Attempts by officials to dodge accountability have been aided by the state.

Parliament has refused to lift immunity granted to lawmakers and top officials have turned down requests to interrogate top security officials.

The interior ministry has also failed to implement arrest warrants issued by Bitar, further undermining his investigation.

Attempts to obstruct Bitar's work have also spilled onto the streets, with the powerful Hizbullah movement staging a rally in Beirut in October demanding his removal. The protest turned Beirut’s edges into a war zone, with live fire exchanges between rival parties leaving seven dead.

Hizbullah and its Amal Movement allies are spearheading efforts to replace Bitar.

A judicial source said the number of lawsuits filed against Bitar now stands at around 20.

Some of the judges who turned down requests to replace Bitar have since been hit with lawsuits themselves by the same officials.

The lawsuits against Bitar will inevitably delay the presentation of his findings which were previously expected by 2021’s end.

In a country where even high-profile assassinations and bombings go unpunished, many fear a Lebanon-led blast probe will fail to hold anyone to account.

In a joint letter sent to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September, rights groups and relatives of blast victims said "flagrant political interference, immunity for high-level political officials, and lack of respect for fair trial" have rendered the Beirut blast probe incapable of delivering justice.

Comments 2
Missing un520 21 February 2022, 15:26

Only in Lebanon...

Thumb barrymore 21 February 2022, 15:55

Wondering why Ghada Aoun will not send State Security to arrest these two Shias?