Lebanon judge faces lawsuit, probe halted

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The probe into the devastating Beirut port explosion has been put on hold after a lawsuit was filed against the investigative judge by an ex-minister who was asked to be questioned as a suspect, the media and a judicial source say.

The August 4, 2020 Beirut blast, which was caused by tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been inadequately stored at the port, killed more than 193, wounded 6000 and displaced 300,000 people.

The state-run National News Agency said that "subsequently the probe is on hold pending the decision of the Beirut court of appeal".

The source said Judge Tarek Bitar was notified on Monday that former interior minister Nouhad Mashnouk has filed a lawsuit against him after questioning his neutrality in the case.

"Bitar's fate in the investigation will be decided by the court, it will either reject it or accept it," the source added.

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

Last year, Sawan filed charges against acting Prime Minister Hassan 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.

Judge Bitar last July announced legal proceedings against a number of politicians and security chiefs, including Diab.

William Noun, the brother of one of the victims of the Beirut port blast, told DPA: "We fear that the issue of the Beirut port is being politicised."

Noun said he and the families of other victims will continue fighting for justice at any cost.

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