Hariri wants immunity lifted on all officials in Beirut blast probe

Petition signed to suspend all laws granting senior officials immunity while Lebanese judiciary authorities are investigating the massive Aug. 4 explosion: Hariri

  
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, talks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 26, 2021.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, talks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 26, 2021.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Tuesday called for the temporary suspension of immunity on all officials, including the president, in the probe into last year's Beirut Port blast.

Hariri told a news conference that his Future parliamentary bloc had signed a petition to suspend all laws granting senior officials immunity while Lebanese judiciary authorities are investigating the massive Aug. 4 explosion, caused by a stored large shipment of ammonium nitrate, that killed 211 people, wounded 6,500 and destroyed swathes of the capital. He said the bloc would seek the signatures of other blocs and lawmakers to sign the document "so that we can know the truth."

"We suggest the suspension of all legal articles that grant immunity to the president, prime ministers, deputies, ministers and even lawyers," said Hariri, who was speaking a week before the first anniversary of the blast, described as one of the world's largest non-nuclear detonation.

It emerged after the blast that officials had known about the explosive substance being stored unsafely at the port for years.

But almost a year later an investigation has yet to hold anyone to account, and the families of the victims say political interference has derailed the process.

The lead investigator, Tareq Bitar, has requested immunity be lifted so he can question a top intelligence official and three former ministers in the case, but so far to no avail.

Hariri said that Lebanese laws would see that the case of the blast would be tried in three different courts due to the different immunity laws: one to try senior officials, a second to try negligent judges and a third, criminal one, to try ordinary suspects. But once immunity on officials is lifted, all suspects would be investigated and tried by one court.

"It is the right of the Lebanese to know who brought the nitrates and who is behind this disaster," Hariri said, denying allegations that his Future Movement was against lifting immunity.

"I am the son of a martyr ... no one can outbid us in the issue of Aug. 4," he said in reference to his father, statesman Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in Beirut in 2005.

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