Lebanon marks 3rd anniversary of Beirut port blast

Lebanon marks 3rd anniversary of Beirut port blast

'Our hope, all hope, is that the sun of justice will appear in the Beirut port explosion case as soon as possible,' says Prime Minister Najib Mikati

By Wassim Seifeddine

BEIRUT (AA) — Lebanon marked the third grim anniversary of the deadly Beirut port explosion on Friday, with the justice minister pledging that the judiciary will achieve the desired outcome and hold those responsible accountable.

On Aug. 4, 2020, the explosion claimed 215 people’s lives and injured nearly 6,500 others, and wreaked havoc on thousands of homes, with material losses estimated to be in the $15 billion range.

According to official estimates, the explosion occurred in a port hangar containing approximately 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate confiscated from a ship and stored since 2014.

Three years later, the investigation into the incident is still stalled, owing to numerous obstacles, the majority of which are related to the country's political crisis.

"Because the truth alone heals wounds. Our hope, all hope, is that the sun of justice will appear in the Beirut port explosion case as soon as possible," Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on the occasion on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

In a separate statement, Minister of Justice Henry Khoury reaffirmed his pledge that the judiciary will reach the desired outcome.

However, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi criticized the slow progress in delivering justice, demanding accountability for those responsible for the explosion.

"What hinders the process of resuming the investigation in the Beirut port explosion case is the absence of a state in Lebanon that enforces the law," he stated in a statement.

Meanwhile, foreign diplomats, including Turkish Ambassador Ali Baris Ulusoy, observed a moment of silence in the presence of Lebanese Health Minister Firass Abiad at the Beirut port to mark the third anniversary of the blast.

- Stalled investigations

Investigations into the Beirut port explosion case have been halted since Dec. 2021, after over 45 lawsuits were filed against the case's investigative judge Tarek Bitar by politicians and officials who are also defendants in the case.

The defendants took advantage of a legal provision in Lebanese trial procedures that freezes a judge's investigative work if the defendants have doubts about his performance.

The questioned legality of Bitar's ability to carry out investigations into the case has sparked controversy in Lebanon, particularly during a 13-month hiatus caused by charges leveled against him by the defendants, who include former members of parliament and ministers.

Meanwhile, families of the victims, who have taken to the streets multiple times, continue to seek justice, refusing to surrender despite the pressures placed on them.

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

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