Oueidat pleased with postponement of Higher Judicial Council meeting
The Higher Judicial Council on Tuesday failed to convene over the port blast case due to lack of quorum.
Speaking to MTV, State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat said he positively views the session’s postponement because he wants “the solution to come from (Council) Chief Judge Suheil Abboud.”
Oueidat and the judges Elias Richa, Mireille Haddad and Habib Mezher had arrived at the Justice Palace to attend the session, as Abboud and the judges Afif al-Hakim and Dany Chebli failed to show up.
The judge leading the investigation into the deadly 2020 Beirut port explosion, Tarek Bitar, said Monday he had postponed questioning of officials over a dispute with Oueidat, the country's top prosecutor. Bitar said he postponed all interrogations planned for February due to the "lack of cooperation" from the prosecutor's office, without setting new dates.
"There are charges accusing me of usurping power that must be resolved," he said. If these charges "are proven, then I must be held to account, and if the contrary happens, then I must continue the investigation," Bitar argued.
Bitar took Lebanon by surprise on January 23 when he resumed his investigation after a 13-month hiatus, charging eight new suspects including Oueidat and high-level security officials.
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. 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.