Explosions in Beirut: an arrest warrant has been issued for the former Minister of Finance
Sylvie Claire / October 12, 2021
The judge in charge of the investigation into last year's explosion at the port of Beirut issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Lebanese MP and former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, who refused to appear for questioning, a judicial source told AFP.
Judge Tareq Bitar's decision against Ali Hassan Khalil, a senior official of the Shiite movement Amal, came a day after a violent attack by the head of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, an ally of Amal, against the judge, who has already been taken to task by the Lebanese political class. The judge had resumed this week his investigation into the devastating explosion on August 4, 2020 after the rejection by an appeals court of complaints by MPs, including the former minister, to dismiss him. The magistrate is trying to take advantage of a period in which deputies do not have parliamentary immunity, before the opening of the fall session of the hemicycle on October 19. Politicians of all stripes refuse to be questioned by the judge, even though the authorities have blamed the tragedy on the storage of huge quantities of ammonium nitrate without precautionary measures.
The explosion killed more than 200 people, injured more than 6,500, and devastated entire neighbourhoods in the capital. On September 27, Judge Bitar was forced to suspend the investigation after a complaint from the Sunni MP and former Minister of the Interior Nohad al-Mashnouk, suspected of negligence and failures. Ali Hassan Khalil and another former minister and MP of the Amal movement, Ghazi Zaayter, also suspected in the investigation, had also filed a complaint against the judge. Ghazi Zaayter and Nohad al-Mashnouk are due to appear before the judge on Wednesday. The Lebanese authorities have been accused of criminal negligence and have rejected any international investigation, before dismissing the first investigator in February following the indictment of senior officials. Since he inherited the case, Tareq Bitar has summoned former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and four former ministers for indictment.
On September 16, he issued a warrant for the arrest of former Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos, a member of a Christian party close to Hezbollah.