Wednesday, January 20

A judge accuses the Lebanese prime minister of negligence over the explosion in the port of Beirut | International


Acting Prime Minister Hassan Diba at Balboa Palace on December 10, 2021.
Acting Prime Minister Hassan Diba at Balboa Palace on December 10, 2021.Dalai Nohra / Reuters

The Lebanese interim prime minister, Hassan Diab, was accused of negligence on Thursday in the ongoing investigation into the colossal explosion that shook the port of Beirut on August 4. Diab resigned a few days after the explosion, which left 205 dead, more than 6,500 injured and displaced 300,000 residents from their homes. Judge Fadi Sawan has also indicted three other former ministers for negligence in relation to the 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that was stored in the Beirut silo for six years under inappropriate conditions.

” His hands are clean, and he has handled the case of the explosion in a responsible and transparent manner”, the press office of the ex premier after accusing Judge Sawan of “violating the Constitution” and trying “to attack the position of prime minister.” While some 25 people have been arrested since the opening of the investigation, including the head of port customs, they are the first politicians to sit in the dock pending to be called to testify next week.

The judge’s decision comes after it was confirmed that the four suspects “received several letters warning about the danger posed by postponing the elimination of ammonium nitrate,” as a judicial source has assured the Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar. Four prime ministers have passed through the post, including the current Saad Hariri, since the ammonium nitrate was seized at the port of Beirut in 2013. All deny having been informed of the danger it posed.

The deadly explosion caused an outbreak of anger among citizens who since October 2019 have demonstrated in the streets against the Lebanese political class, whom they call corrupt. Despite having lost the confidence of the population, the government has opposed requests from civil society to open an international investigation. Four months after the explosion, the families of the victims continue to demand justice.

Instability

Lebanon continues in free fall since last March proclaiming its first debt default. The Lebanese pound has drastically devalued against the dollar, while food prices soar. The announcement last week by the Central Bank of the inability to maintain state subsidies for medicines, flour or fuel beyond two months have caused panic in the population.

French President Emmanuel Macron once again pressured Lebanese politicians last Thursday to accelerate the formation of a new Executive capable of implementing the necessary reforms. Without these, there will be no international aid, the president has assured.

On October 22, Saad Hariri returned to the post of prime minister for the third time, a year after his resignation. In charge of forming a new government, the differences between the different political leaders on the names and the portfolios to occupy once again keep the process stalled.

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