The Beirut Civil Court of Appeals under the chairmanship of Judge Randa Harrouq on Tuesday dismissed ex-minister Youssef Fenianos’ recusal request against Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar, the state-run National News Agency said.
According to NNA, Harrouq said that the court lacks the jurisdiction to accept such a request, a stance that was expected after the Court of Cassation said that it exclusively has the right to look into recusal requests against Bitar.
“Judge Bitar has been informed of the content of the decision (of Harrouq), which calls for the resumption of investigations and measures related to the Beirut port case,” NNA added.
The probe was suspended for more than a month following legal challenges from former officials charged in the case.
Lebanon’s investigation into the August 2020 explosion led by Bitar was suspended for the third time in early November because of a deluge of legal challenges filed by defendants.
Several officials have refused to be questioned amid calls by some groups, including Hizbullah, to have the judge removed, accusing him of bias.
Disagreements over the judge’s work between rival political groups have paralyzed the government, which has not met since Oct. 12. Hizbullah and two allied groups have demanded that Bitar be replaced.
At least 216 people died in the port explosion, caused by the detonation of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse for years, apparently with the knowledge of senior politicians and security officials who did nothing about it. The explosion also injured 6,000 people and destroyed parts of the city.
More than a year after the government launched a judicial investigation, nearly everything else remains unknown — from who ordered the shipment to why officials ignored repeated warnings of the danger.