Lebanese court removes judge from Beirut blast probe, activists slam ‘mockery of justice’
A Lebanese court on Thursday dismissed a judge who had charged top politicians with negligence over last year’s Beirut port explosion, infuriatingfamilies of victims who said it showed that the state would never hold powerful men to account.
Judge Fadi Sawan had led the investigation into the largest non-nuclear blast in history. In December, he charged three ex-ministers and the outgoing prime minister with negligence.
Two hundred people died in the August 4, 2020 blast when a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, stored unsafely for years, detonated at the capital’s port. Thousands were injured and entire neighbourhoods destroyed.
On Thursday, the Lebanese Court of Cassation called for a new investigating judge to be appointed to lead the probe, nearly six months after it had started.
The court decided to take Sawan off the case after a request from two of the former ministers he charged.
A copy of the decision seen by Reuters cited “legitimate suspicion” over Sawan’s neutrality, partly because his house was damaged in the blast which devastated much of the Lebanese capital.
The move will likely delay an investigation that has faced political pushback and has yet to yield any results.
‘A mockery of justice’
Rights activists immediately condemned Thursday’s ruling as the latest example of an entrenched political class placing itself above the law.
Sawan’s removal “makes a mockery of justice and is an insult to the victims of the blast”, Human Rights Watch researcher Aya Majzoub said.
The ruling showed “politicians are not subject to the rule of law”, she added.
Following the announcement dozens of family members of people killed in the port blast rallied outside the main Beirut court house…..read more