Cairo: Families of people killed in a huge blast that hit the Beirut port more than six months ago blocked a main road in the city today in a protest against the removal of a judge in charge of the probe who had indicted senior politicians over the incident.
A Lebanese court Thursday ordered the inquiry into the August blast be transferred from judge Fadi Sawan to another judge in response to a request from two ex-officials whom Sawan had earlier charged with negligence in the case.
On Friday, a number of the victims cut off the Sami Al Sulh road in both directions denouncing the order to remove Sawan, the Lebanese news agency NNA reported. The protesters also condemned what they called procrastination in investigations into the port blast, it added.
Other protesters demonstrated outside the Palace of Justice, a complex of courts in Beirut, demanding perpetrators be identified and brought to justice. They raised placards reading “No to procrastination in investigations” and “No to politicization. No to dilly-dallying”.
Some politicians have also expressed anger at Sawan’s removal. Ex-tourism minister Michel Pharoun voiced “shock and deep sadness” at the move. “We are ashamed of a republic that rudely endeavours to obliterate facts at the expense of its people’s bodies,” Pharoun said in a tweet.
Last December, Sawan indicted caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, former ministers Ali Hassan Khalil, Ghazi Zaieter and Youssef Fenianos with negligence that caused many deaths in the port blast and demanded their questioning. None of the four showed up for interrogation.
Zaieter and Khalil argued that the move against them violated the constitution and presented a request to replace Sawan with another investigating judge.
The August 4 blast at the Beirut port killed around 200 people and injured other thousands.
The explosion fuelled public discontent and forced the Diab government to resign and continue work in a caretaker capacity.
The row over blast inquiry comes as Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades.