The lead investigator into a catastrophic August 4 explosion at Beirut port charged outgoing premier Hassan Diab and three ex-ministers with negligence Thursday, a judicial source said.
They are the first politicians to be indicted over the devastating blast that killed more than 200 people, disfigured the heart of the capital and ignited a wave of public anger against Lebanon’s ruling elite.
The decision by judge Fadi Sawan came after the investigation confirmed that the suspects had received “several written notices warning them against postponing the disposal of ammonium nitrate fertiliser,” which authorities say was behind the explosion, the source said.
“They also did not take the necessary measures to avoid the devastating explosion and its enormous damage,” added the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on the issue.
The other officials charged are the former ministers of finance, Ali Hasan Khalil, public works, Yusef Fenianos, and transport, Ghazi Zaiter.
In a letter to parliament late last month, Sawan asked lawmakers to investigate several outgoing and former ministers over the explosion.
The letter came after Sawan’s own investigations raised “certain suspicions about the responsibility of those ministers and their failure towards addressing the presence of the ammonium nitrate at the port.”
The judicial source said on Thursday that parliament had not responded to Sawan’s request, prompting him to press charges unilaterally.
Sawan will begin questioning the suspects on Monday, the source said.
The investigation has so far triggered the arrest of 25 people, including top port and customs officials.
Lebanese officials have rejected an international probe, despite demands both at home and abroad for an impartial investigation.
Experts from France and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation took part in the preliminary investigation.