Disasters & Accidents

Lebanon releases of all Beirut blast detainees as inquiry suffers fresh blow

Beirut, Jan 25 (EFE).- Lebanon’s prosecutor general has ordered the release of all detainees held in connection with the 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut that killed more than 200 people and injured 6,500.

Wednesday’s order by Ghassan Oueidat is another blow to an investigation that has repeatedly been obstructed.

“We have decided to release, without exception, all detainees in the Beirut port explosion case and to ban them from traveling, placing them at the disposal of the Judicial Council in case it convenes,” a notice signed by Oueidat said.

On Monday, the judge in charge of the investigation into the explosion, Tarek Bitar, decided to resume the process after it had been suspended for more than a year due to a series of complaints filed by former high-ranking officials suspected of negligence in the case.

The judicial investigator ordered the release of five of the 17 detainees in connection with the blast and called a number of suspects, including Oueidat himself, former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and two senior Lebanese officials to testify early next month.

The Prosecutor’s Office said it believes that since Bitar is tied up investigating the explosion, there is no judge to rule on appeals filed by those who have been detained “for more than a year,” according to the notice issued on Wednesday.

Oueidat therefore decided to order the release of the 17 suspects under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which upholds the right of detainees to liberty.

“Anyone arrested on a criminal charge must be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power, and must be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release,” reads the covenant adopted by the UN in 1966.

Several human rights organizations have accused suspected former high-ranking officials of obstructing the investigation into the explosion, and have called for an international inquiry into the lack of progress in the domestic process two and a half years after the tragedy. EFE


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