Beirut blast probe judge eyes politicians

·1-min read

A Lebanese judge investigating last year's Beirut port blast has announced legal procedures against a number of politicians and security chiefs, including the acting prime minister, a judicial source and the state news agency report.

Lebanon's official news agency NNA reported that Judge Tarek Bitar asked the parliament to lift the immunity of some lawmakers to initiate legal proceedings as part of investigations into the August 4 explosion that killed at least 193 people.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab would also be questioned by Bitar as a defendant in the case, according to NNA.

A specific date was however not announced.

Bitar also asked Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi's permission to prosecute the country's former and current security chiefs, according to the agency.

A Lebanese judicial source said the judge would prosecute the suspects for negligence after they were informed of the presence of highly hazardous substances at the port and failed to take the necessary steps to prevent the blast.

The explosion was caused by tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been inadequately stored at the port.

About 300,000 people were displaced by the blast that devastated large parts of Beirut.

Bitar is the second judge appointed to investigate the blast after Judge Fadi Sawan was removed last February.

Last year, Sawan filed charges against Diab and three former ministers for negligence.

But two of the ministers submitted a request to the state prosecution that Sawan be removed from the case, questioning his neutrality.

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