Blast judge summons three Lebanese MPs for questioning

Judge Tarek Bitar has ordered the three MPs to submit themselves to questioning over the Beirut Port explosion

A woman walks on rubble at the site of last year's Beirut port blast, in Beirut, Lebanon July 13, 2021.

A woman walks on rubble at the site of last year's Beirut port blast, in Beirut, Lebanon July 13, 2021.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: The judge investigating the August 2020 Beirut Port explosion has summoned three MPs for questioning about their potential responsibility for the disaster.

Nohad al-Machnouk, Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter have all been ordered to submit themselves for questioning, as it is alleged that they committed the crime of negligence with intent that led to the deaths of over 200 people.

The explosion is thought to have been caused by the improper storage at the port of the dangerous fertilizer ammonium nitrate, which several officials were aware of at the time. Huge swaths of the capital were devastated.

Machnouk has been ordered to attend a court hearing on Sept. 30, with Khalil and Zeaiter to appear before the court on Oct. 1. The MPs have been informed of this decision via Parliament's General Secretariat.

The investigation into the explosion has been repeatedly held up, with politicians refusing to answer court summons as they claim immunity, unless Parliament has voted in favor of waiving it. In February, Bitar's predecessor was removed from his post by a court after he attempted to charge Hassan Diab, who was the prime minister at the time of the tragedy, and three other ministers with "negligence and causing death to hundreds." Diab, who was issued with a second subpoena on Sept. 14, has since left Lebanon for the United States. He denies all allegations made against him. As yet, nobody has been held to account for the disaster.

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