The Court of Appeals on Friday stressed that Judge Habib Mezher has not been tasked with looking into the recusal lawsuit against Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar, noting that Mezher has instead been exclusively tasked with ruling on a recusal lawsuit filed against Court of Appeals judge Nassib Elia, a memo obtained by al-Jadeed TV showed.
The lawyers of the blast’s foreign victims meanwhile submitted a request to the court asking its chief Judge Habib Rizkallah to separate the file of Bitar’s recusal from the file of Elia’s recusal “after it turned out that there is not any assignment for Judge Habib Mezher to look into the file related to Judge Bitar.”
“Accordingly, the decision that Mezher made on November 4 is illegal,” the lawyers added.
Bitar’s probe was suspended on Thursday after Mezher notified him of a lawsuit filed against him by ex-minister Youssef Fenianos. Similar temporary suspensions have plagued the course of the probe over the past weeks but previous cases to remove the judge have been turned down.
Mezher also asked Bitar to hand over the details of the case to enable the court to review the lawsuit, according to a copy of the decision seen by The Associated Press.
The Beirut-based rights group Legal Agenda warned that Mezher’s request to see the full content of the investigation violates the secrecy of the probe. The group also said that Mezher’s known opinions critical of Bitar may constitute bias.
According to media reports, Mezher is close to Hizbullah and the Amal Movement, which both have called for Bitar’s removal and launched a fierce campaign against him over alleged selectivity in his summonings.