Sawwan Sets New Dates for Questioning Diab, ex-Ministers

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Judge Fadi Sawwan, the lead judicial investigator into the port blast, has set new dates for the interrogation of caretaker PM Hassan Diab and three ex-ministers, media reports said on Monday.

Sawwan rescheduled the sessions after the four declined to show up on Monday, judicial officials told the Associated Press.

According to the judicial officials, Diab is now scheduled to be questioned on Friday.

Legal experts said that by issuing new dates for questioning, Sawwan is showing determination to go ahead with his work despite political pressure.

It was not clear what the judge’s next steps will be if the politicians again decline to be questioned. Among his options are issuing arrest warrants. Or if he is totally ignored he may decide to step down. That would deal a major blow to the investigation into Lebanon’s most destructive single incident in its history.

The massive Aug. 4 blast killed around 200 people, injured thousands and caused widespread destruction in the capital.

The explosion was caused by the ignition of a large stockpile of explosive material that had been stored at the port for six years with the knowledge of top security officials and politicians who did nothing about it.

Diab has rejected the charges as “politically targeting” the position of prime minister and accused Sawwan of violating the constitution and bypassing parliament. He also said he had already given the prosecutor all the information he has during an initial questioning session as a witness in September.

The surprise move by Sawwan has been praised by families of the victims of the port explosion, but criticized by politicians and Hizbullah as unconstitutional. Among those who rejected it were Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim cleric and former prime ministers, including premier-designate Saad Hariri, a political foe of Diab.

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