Families of Port Victims Threaten to 'Change Face of Lebanon' if Probe Obstructed
Relatives of the Beirut port blast victims on Tuesday warned that they would take action that would “change the face of Lebanon” if the probe into the catastrophic explosion came to an end, a day after the investigation was suspended following a lawsuit from ex-minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq.
“We call on the Lebanese to gather outside the Justice Palace tomorrow at 1:00 pm and we will announced the plan that will change the face of Lebanon,” the families said.
Speaking to al-Jadeed TV, a spokesman for the families, Ibrahim Hoteit, warned that they might take justice on their own hands.
Describing the suspension of the probe as “very shameful” and “very harmful to the families of the martyrs,” Hoteit decried: “They have killed us twice!”
“We are awaiting truth and justice, not anything more than that. We have not called for vengeance and we’ve been patient for a year and two months. So far, our movements have always been largely peaceful, but what can we do later. We have been polite but don’t force us to turn into street thugs!” the spokesman added.
On Aug. 4, 2020, hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers, ignited and blew up after a massive fire at the port. It later emerged that the nitrate had been improperly stored in a port warehouse for years, and that senior political and security officials knew of its existence and did nothing about it.
Along with the scores killed, more than 6,000 people were injured and parts of the capital were devastated.
More than a year later, no one has been held to account for the explosion. On Monday, the lead judge investigating the explosion, Tarek Bitar, had to suspend his work in the case, amid legal challenges from politicians and a growing campaign by Lebanon's political class against him.
Bitar is the second judge to lead the complicated probe. His predecessor, Fadi Sawwan, was removed following similar legal challenges by senior officials he had accused of negligence that led to the blast.