Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s powerful group, on Monday urged the government to replace judge Tarek Bitar, who was appointed to lead an investigation into the explosion at the country’s port.
“I told the families of the victims, if you hope to get the truth from this judge, I say you will not get it,” Nasrallah said. Tarek Bitar was appointed in February by a government agency to replace his predecessor.
The court ruled to remove Bitar’s predecessor after he faced similar bias charges, like the one currently leveled against Bitar, from a former Lebanese official.
Nasrallah has repeatedly accused Bitar of politicizing the investigation process. In an hour-long speech on Monday, he spoke about the various crises in the country.
However, almost 15 minutes of the entire speech, Nasrallah spent criticizing almost every decision Bitar in the investigation carried out. He accused him that the judge was targeting officials who were Hezbollah allies and ignored the other alleged perpetrators.
On August 4, 2020, hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, which is highly explosive and commonly used in fertilizer mixes, exploded at a port in Beirut. The material had been improperly stored in the Beirut port for years. The explosion killed at least 214 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed surrounding neighborhoods.
Independent media and human rights organizations revealed that most of Lebanon’s senior political and security leaders were aware of the material stored at the port, but did nothing to take precautions or warn the public of the dangers that could ensue. (ka/lt)