Abdel Massih: Justice minister's bodyguards assaulted MPs


Chaos ensued Thursday inside the Justice Palace, after over a dozen legislators from reformist and traditional opposition parties met with caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury.

The heated meeting about the recent developments in the Beirut port probe led to scuffles with the minister’s guards who allegedly tried to snatch their phones as they filmed the meeting. Some of them say they were attacked, and have called for Khoury to resign.

“These aren’t guards, these are the dogs of the justice minister,” opposition parliamentarian Adib Abdelmassih told the press after leaving the Justice Palace. “We were talking about the law in a civilized way and the parliamentarians were giving their opinions on the matter.”

Abdel Massih called on the caretaker minister Henry Khoury to resign, after the incident, saying that the bodyguards of the justice minister assaulted the lawmakers.

MPs Waddah al-Sadek, Melhem Khalaf and others were asking the minister to act, after the latest judicial turmoil.

The bodyguards pushed the lawmakers and tried to take their mobile phones, Abdel Masih said.

"We raised our voice, calling on the minister to take an administrative decision regarding the deep rift in the judiciary. The minister raised his voice back and his guards attacked us and beat us," Abdel Massih said.

Families of victims killed in the 2020 Beirut explosion rallied Thursday to support the judge investigating the disaster, after he was charged by Lebanon's top prosecutor in the highly politically case.

Bitar this week defied Lebanon's entrenched ruling elite by daring to charge several powerful figures -- including prosecutor general Ghassan Oueidat -- over the blast, and revived a probe that was suspended for over a year amid vehement political and legal pushback.

Oueidat in turn charged Bitar for insubordination and for "usurping power," calling him for questioning on Thursday -- a summons Bitar is not expected to attend.

MP Paula Yacoubian, who met the minister with the other MPs, said that what she heard from the minister is not reassuring.

"We sensed an inclination to dismiss Bitar and appoint another judge," Yaacoubian said, warning that the MPs will not remain silent.

Reformist legislator Ibrahim Mneimeh told the AP that Justice Minister Khoury said he will take a position based on what happens at the council's meeting.

“We told him that Lebanon is at a significant crossroads, the judiciary has shattered, and he has a responsibility to restore matters within his prerogatives,” Mneimneh explained. “In my opinion, this indicates that the probe and justice are threatened, and that this case could be terminated.”

The opposition and change MPs later met with Judge Suheil Abboud, the chief of the Higher Judicial Council, which is set to convene later in the day.

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