Critics say parliamentary move for special judicial body to try officials over Beirut port blast shields them from prosecution.
Beirut, Lebanon – Dozens of Lebanese MPs have pledged support for a parliamentary motion allowing a special judicial body to investigate and try caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and four ex-ministers over last year’s Beirut Port explosion, but legal activists and the families of the blast victims slammed the move as an attempt to shield the officials from accountability.
The Beirut Port explosion on August 4 last year killed more than 200 people, wounded about 6,500, and flattened part of the Lebanese capital. Many blame officials for storing hundreds of tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate at the port, which ignited and caused the explosion.
A judicial source told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that at least 50 MPs had initially signed the motion to try the officials at the Supreme Council, a judicial body charged with matters of impeachment.
In addition to Diab, the source said the four ex-ministers included in the motion are former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former Public Works Ministers Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Finianos, and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk. Khalil, Zeiter, and Machnouk are currently MPs.
The source said the council, which is comprised of eight senior judges in addition to seven legislators appointed by their peers, has “not ever tried a minister, president, or lawmaker in its history”,and critics see the move as an attempt to undermine an already stalled judicial investigation.
Earlier in July Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the judicial investigation into the blast, requested the lifting of immunity of several senior politicians and former and current security officials so he can prosecute them on the suspicion of criminal negligence, as well as homicide with probable intent over the blast.