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Decide seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast

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BEIRUT (AP) — The lead decide investigating Lebanon’s huge port explosion final yr issued an arrest warrant Thursday for a former authorities minister who failed to look for questioning, the state-run Nationwide Information company reported.

Youssef Fenianos, the previous public works minister, is one among plenty of former authorities officers who’ve declined to look earlier than investigating decide Tarek Bitar.

Bitar has charged Fenianos and three different former senior authorities officers with intentional killing and negligence that led to the deaths of greater than 200 individuals within the blast and over 6,000 wounded.

Bitar additionally summoned the previous and present safety chiefs. The previous prime minister has additionally refused to look earlier than the decide.

A whole bunch of tons of ammonium nitrate, a extremely explosive materials utilized in fertilizers, had been improperly saved within the port for years. It lastly exploded on Aug. 4, 2020, devastating elements of the capital Beirut.

The Lebanese investigation has been working into main obstacles, together with the elimination of Bitar’s predecessor on costs he violated the structure by summoning authorities officers. Greater than a yr after the blast, there are nonetheless no solutions to what triggered the explosion, and nobody has been held accountable.

Rights teams and native media revealed that almost all state officers knew of the presence of ammonium nitrate within the port however did nothing to take away it or correctly retailer it. In an in depth report issued final month, Human Rights Watch mentioned senior officers knew of the dangers posed by the extremely explosive materials and did nothing to guard the general public in opposition to it.

On Wednesday, greater than 140 native and worldwide organizations and survivors of the blast have repeated a name issued earlier urging a U.N.-backed probe into the blast to mete out justice.

Of their plea, the teams mentioned authorities officers have refused to look for questioning and authorities declined to carry immunity to permit for prosecution of members of parliament or senior authorities and safety officers.

“Political leaders have tried to forged doubt on Decide Bitar’s impartiality, accusing him of being politicized,” the teams mentioned and criticized Lebanese safety forces for forcefully breaking apart protests by households of the blast victims on not less than two events. “The failures of the home investigation to make sure accountability dramatically illustrates the bigger tradition of impunity for officers that has lengthy been the case in Lebanon.”

Fenianos’ authorized workforce argued Thursday that the matter is not for Decide Bitar to analyze after parliament opened a evaluation into the fees leveled in opposition to lawmakers and authorities officers.

The blast was one of many largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded and was probably the most damaging single incident in Lebanon’s troubled historical past. Lebanon has an extended historical past of violence that goes unpunished and a authorized system broadly criticized for falling below political affect.

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