Former ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zoaiter on Monday submitted an additional request through their lawyer, asking the Court of Cassation to replace Judge Fadi Sawwan over “legitimate suspicion” regarding the legality of the charges he has filed against them in the port blast probe.
The move comes in line with Article 340 of the Criminal Procedure Law, the National News Agency said.
The additional request contains new arguments explaining why the two ex-ministers think that Sawwan should be replaced, NNA added.
Sawwan had on December 10 issued charges against Khalil and Zoaiter as well as caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab and ex-minister Youssef Fenianos over the August 4 blast that killed around 200 people, wounded more than 6,500 and disfigured Lebanon’s capital.
The four were charged with “negligence and causing death to hundreds and injuries to thousands more” in one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.
The Cassation Court is now expected to rule on their request for Sawwan to be removed from his post.
“Until then, all investigation proceedings are suspended,” a senior court judicial official said.
Diab has also refused to appear in front of the judge on similar grounds.
Lebanon’s politicians have rallied around the argument that the indictment of a minister should be submitted to a vote in parliament.
Diab, who resigned in the wake of the explosion, already testified before Sawwan in September.
The huge stock of ammonium nitrate that ignited at Beirut port had been stored there for years when Diab took office almost exactly a year ago.
The fact that little light has been shed on the circumstances that led to Lebanon’s worst peacetime disaster nearly four months after the blast has caused outrage.
It is also fueling distrust among international donors, whose support is much needed if Lebanon is to stand a chance of surviving its deepest ever economic crisis.