Report: Pro-Bitar judges mull that he work from Jdeideh
Higher Judicial Council chief Judge Suheil Abboud and a group of judges who support Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar “have started implementing decentralization in the judiciary,” al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Monday.
Abboud and this group of judges “have started mulling the idea that Bitar practice his work from an office in Jdeideh’s Justice Palace, in an implication that this place is located in a Christian area and no one will dare to attack it,” al-Akhbar quoted prominent judicial sources as saying.
The sources added that “this week will witness a strong continuation of the confrontation.”
The newspaper also quoted sources close to State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat as saying that the latter is “determined to go to the end in the recusal of Bitar.”
Bitar took Lebanon by surprise last Monday 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 said he based his decision on a legal review that he himself conducted, with a source close to him saying the judge "is convinced it's crucial to hold officials accountable and finish his mission."
But others in Lebanon point to foreign interference in the case. A top security official 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 official said an American lobby group was pushing for sanctions against Bitar, Oueidat and another top judge, should they fail to comply.
The week before reopening the case, Bitar had met with two French judges for hours about his investigation. The delegation suggested Bitar should resume work, arguing that holding suspects in detention without trial is a human rights violation.
Bitar's surprise move sparked a judicial battle with Oueidat, putting Lebanon's notoriously politicized justice system to yet another test.
Oueidat retaliated by charging the judge with "usurping power" and insubordination, and slapped Bitar with a travel ban. A defiant Bitar meanwhile told AFP he would not step down, adding that Oueidat "has no authority" to intervene in the case.