September 20, 2021

Explosion at the port of Beirut: Lebanese demonstrate to advance the investigation

Security forces fired tear gas on Tuesday (July 13) at angry demonstrators protesting outside the residence in Beirut of a minister accused of blocking the investigation into the explosion at the port of the Lebanese capital that occurred around a year.

An unknown number of protesters were injured, most from tear gas inhalation, local media reported. The security forces reported about 20 wounded in their ranks.

Relatives of the victims of the explosion on August 4, 2020 at the port of Beirut, which killed more than 200 people, began to demonstrate in the afternoon before being joined by dozens of other demonstrators in the evening.

Teargas

Protesters tried to force entry into the building of acting Interior Minister Mohamed Fahmi, and riot police in force used batons and tear gas to push them back, a correspondent said. AFP on site. The demonstration continued into the late evening.

Rescuers treated protesters on the spot who were suffocating from tear gas. A man was injured in the head after being beaten by members of the security forces.

On August 4, 2020, the gigantic explosion was triggered by a fire in a warehouse at the port which housed tons of ammonium nitrate stored “ without precautionary measures ” by the authorities themselves. In addition to more than 200 dead, the explosion left more than 6,500 injured and destroyed entire neighborhoods of the Lebanese capital. A local investigation has still given nothing, no official having been held to account.

Interference

The demonstration, at the call of relatives of the victims of the explosion who accuse political leaders of interference in the investigation, takes place after Mohamed Fahmi rejected earlier this month a request from the judge in charge of the investigation, Tarek Bitar, to hear Abbas Ibrahim, the director of the powerful General Security.

‘By refusing to waive the immunity of Abbas Ibrahim, the Minister of the Interior intervenes between us, the relatives of the victims, and justice,’ said Paul Najjar, who lost his three-year-old daughter in the drama. ‘He’s killing us a second time.’

‘The people want the fall of the regime’

Protesters ripped open the doors of the entrance to Mohamed Fahmi’s building, displayed portraits of the victims and placed white coffins in front of the building. ‘The people want the fall of the regime,’ they chanted.

The investigating judge in charge of the investigation, Tarek Bitar, has asked Parliament to lift the immunity of three deputies who have held ministerial posts ‘with a view to bringing charges for potential intent to kill’ and ‘negligence and shortcomings’. Parliament then demanded additional ‘evidence’ before lifting the immunity, which the judge refused.

In June, around 50 NGOs, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, called for a UN investigation into the tragedy after denouncing ‘flagrant political interference, the immunity of senior politicians and violations of due process. ‘in the Lebanese investigation.