Lebanese MP delivers petition to US: Sanction obstructers of Beirut blast probe

The letter, signed by more than 30 groups and organizations inside and outside of Lebanon, called for the governments of EU countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK, and the US to take measures and sanction “perpetrators accountable” in the 2020 Beirut blast.

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A leading Lebanese opposition MP recently delivered a petition to US officials signed by expatriates and local residents, calling for sanctions against Lebanon’s current and former officials who are obstructing investigations into the Port of Beirut blast.

The letter, signed by more than 30 groups and organizations inside and outside of Lebanon, called for the governments of EU countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK, and the US to take measures and sanction “perpetrators accountable” in the deadly 2020 explosion.

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Lead investigator Tarek Bitar has faced several obstacles by the political elite and judges they back, blocking him from being able to subpoena suspects for questioning.

Hezbollah and its allies have been the main sides blocking Bitar’s work, with the Iran-backed group reportedly going as far as threatening “to remove” the judge.

Bitar has received death threats, been issued a travel ban by Lebanese courts, and had charges filed against him for efforts to question sitting and former officials.

“Other forms of obstruction that the investigation faced include officials not showing up when subpoenaed, judicial and administrative stalling tactics, as well as the use of violence by some political actors,” read the letter, which was seen by Al Arabiya English.

The groups said their call for international sanctions was due to the Lebanese state’s failure to comply with international obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention Against Corruption. Lebanon is party to both.

Mark Daou, the opposition MP mentioned above, raised the investigation and the letter during his meetings in Washington last week at the State Department. He said that State Department officials vowed to look into the petition and come back with an answer.

Al Arabiya English has reached out to the State Department for comment.

The petition listed several officials they said were impeding the path to justice. The names include:

  • Former Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeaiter (Amal Movement)
  • Former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk (formerly close to Saad Hariri)
  • Former PM Hassan Diab (backed by Hezbollah)
  • General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim (close to Amal and Hezbollah)
  • State Security chief Tony Saliba (close to Free Patriotic Movement)
  • Former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil (Amal Movement)
  • General Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat
  • Youssef Fenianos (Marada Movement)
  • Judge Ghassan Khoury

Dated Jan. 30, the letter calls for pressure to be exerted on Lebanese authorities to ensure the safety of Bitar and to take measures to ensure the probe proceeds without political interference. They are also requesting a UN fact-finding mission to support the investigation.

The request comes after similar calls in recent months by the Lebanese Judges’ Association, the Beirut Bar Association, and more than 40 Lebanese lawmakers.

Nadim Haddad, a prominent Lebanese diaspora organizer, said the civil society abroad and inside Lebanon were coming together to support Bitar. “We are asking the international community to protect [Judge] Bitar and the Port investigation and to sanction all the suspects obstructing it,” Haddad told Al Arabiya English after he presented the letter to the State Department alongside Daou.

Read more: Lebanese elite bury blast probe, pushing fragile state closer to edge

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