Families of Port Victims Say Bitar Told Them ‘All Immunities Will Fall’

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Relatives of Beirut port blast victims on Monday met with Judge Tarek al-Bitar, the newly-appointed lead judicial investigator into the thorny case.

“Judge Bitar is focused on the issue of the investigation and he will spare no effort in this regard, even in weekends,” a spokesman for the families said.

“He reassured us that all immunities will fall in the face of the transparent investigation,” the spokesman added.

Noting that “some of the victims’ families prefer to seek an international probe,” the spokesman said “these families have the right to reach the soothing truth in the issue of their sons’ martyrdom in the way they find appropriate, whether through a local or an international investigation.”

Bitar was named as the new lead judge on Friday, a day after his predecessor was removed from the case.

He has become the second judge to look into the explosion of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on August 4 that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and ravaged swathes of the capital.

Bitar steps into the position after a court on Thursday removed Judge Fadi Sawwan from the case, following a complaint from two former ministers charged with negligence over the explosion.

Lawyer and activist Nizar Saghieh tentatively welcomed Bitar’s appointment, and said he had a good reputation as being competent.

But after Sawan’s removal, he wondered whether the new judge would be able to conduct his work “without interference or pressure.”

“Will he be able to cross the red lines?” he asked.

The probe into Lebanon’s worst peace-time disaster has led to the detention of 25 people, from maintenance workers to the port’s customs director, but not a single politician.

SourceNaharnet

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