Parliament has asked Judicial Investigator Judge Fadi Sawwan to submit a file detailing any “serious suspicions” he has regarding officials he has charged or intends to charge in the ongoing probe into the devastating August 4 explosion at Beirut’s port.
“We have received a letter from Judge Sawwan and it has been decided not to publish it in the media out of respect for the Lebanese judiciary and keenness from us on it performing its work to the fullest,” Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli announced after a meeting for Parliament Bureau chaired by Speaker Nabih Berri.
“We hope facts will be reached regarding the port’s crime and its reasons,” Ferzli added.
In response, parliament sent Sawwan a letter and it is “awaiting an answer including a file carrying serious suspicions in order to act accordingly,” Ferzli revealed.
“The letter we sent to Judge Sawwan includes an essential point, which is that we regret that parliament has been addressed as if it has neglected the practice of its constitutional jurisdiction, seeing as how can parliament make accusations without clear evidence?” the Deputy Speaker went on to say.
“We have not found any serious or non-serious suspicions against all those who were named,” Ferzli added.
He also said that parliament will hold a plenary session on Monday.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and ex-ministers Ghazi Zoaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil, who are both incumbent MPs, have declined to be interrogated by Sawwan, casting doubts on the future of the probe.
Diab, the two ministers and ex-minister Youssef Fenianos were charged last week by Sawwan with negligence over the massive Aug. 4 blast that killed over 200 people, injured thousands and caused widespread destruction in the capital.
The explosion was caused by the ignition of a large stockpile of explosive material that had been stored at the port for six years with the knowledge of top security officials and politicians who did nothing about it. The four are the most senior officials to be charged in the investigation and were set to be questioned as defendants this week by Sawwan, starting with Diab on Monday.
According to judicial officials, Diab is now scheduled to be questioned on Friday.
It was not clear what the judge’s next steps will be if the politicians again decline to be questioned. Among his options are issuing arrest warrants. Or if he is totally ignored he may decide to step down. That would deal a major blow to the investigation into Lebanon’s most destructive single incident in its history.