Lebanon’s PM declines to be questioned over Beirut blast

By Simdi Gloria:-

According to an official source on Monday, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, has declined to be questioned by the judge who charged him and three former ministers with negligence over the Beirut port blast.

A stockpile of ammonium nitrate, stored unsafely for years, detonated in August, killing 200 people, injuring thousands, and devastating entire districts.

Lebanese are still waiting for answers four months since one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts on record.

Judge Fadi Sawan has underlined the political hurdles facing the investigation as he has met push back from influential parties.

Some politicians accused Sawan of being selective and overstepping his powers by charging ministers. Others, including the head of the Beirut Bar Association, said the move showed courage.

The outgoing premier “has said everything he has to say about this file, full stop,” according to his office. Diab, who has testified as a witness, quit after the disaster but continues to serve in a caretaker role.

Judge Sawan requested an appointment from Diab’s office but was told he would not agree to be questioned, the official source at the prime minister’s office said.

Lebanese newspaper al-Joumhouria quoted the caretaker interior minister, Mohammed Fahmi, as saying, he would not enforce any arrest warrants for Diab or the other officials if they refused to be questioned. “And let them pursue me if they wish,”

The ex-ministers charged by Sawan are members of parties allied to Hezbollah, which said the charges smacked of “political targeting”. Two are from Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Shi’ite Amal party, which also accused the judge on Monday of breaching the constitution.

Lebanon’s senior Christian cleric, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, said on Sunday he hoped reactions to Sawan’s move would not obstruct the probe or cause “a national division on a sectarian basis.

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