The families of the victims of the massive explosion at the port of Beirut last year reaffirmed their support for the judge investigating the explosion on Saturday, despite growing calls for his removal by the militant group Hezbollah and its allies.
The families’ statement was apparently aimed at countering a video posted by their spokesperson on social media on Friday night in which he called on Judge Tarek Bitar to step down. Spokesman Ibrahim Hoteit could not be reached for comment. We did not know if he had made the video under pressure. The families said he did not coordinate with them as usual, and the video took them by surprise. Since the August 2020 explosion, which left at least 215 dead, the families of the victims have assumed an increasingly important role in Lebanon with their demands for accountability. After the explosion, documents emerged that several senior politicians and security chiefs were aware of the hundreds of tons of highly combustible ammonium nitrate stored haphazardly in a warehouse at the port and had done nothing about it. topic. On Thursday, shootings broke out in the streets of Beirut between two camps opposing and supporting the judge in the investigation. Seven people were killed and dozens injured.
The violence erupted during a protest organized by Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement, which called for Bitar’s removal from office. Both groups suggested the investigation was moving towards holding them responsible for the explosion. “We, the families of more than 200 martyrs and thousands of injured and hundreds of thousands of people who have suffered damage, have trusted investigating magistrate Tarek Bitar,” the families said.
The statement was released after the families spokesperson demanded in a video that the judge resign because “the situation has turned into a bloodshed of innocent people,” a reference to the violence on Thursday. The spokesperson’s younger brother was killed in the port explosion. Judge Bitar has indicted and issued arrest warrants against Lebanon’s former finance and public works ministers, both close to Hezbollah. Bitar charged the two, along with another former minister and prime minister, with willful murder and negligence which led to the explosion. (AP) RUP RUP
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