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Lebanese justice minister stands by port blast judge

Lebanese justice minister stands by port blast judge

FILE PHOTO: Debris are seen in the port area after a blast in Beirut, Lebanon, August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

CAIRO: Lebanese Justice Minister Henry Khoury said on Saturday (Oct 16) he stood by the judge investigating last year's fatal Beirut port explosion and that the judge had the right to summon whoever he wants in the case, Al Jadeed television reported.

Two days after violence in which seven people were killed as crowds gathered to protest against Judge Tarek Bitar, Khoury said he had not been asked to suggest appointing a new judge to handle the investigation.

"I stand by the ... investigator," Khoury was quoted as saying.

Judicial sources said earlier on Saturday that Lebanon's higher judicial council would meet Bitar on Tuesday to hear his views on how the investigation is proceeding.

The minister added said he did not have the authority to replace Bitar and that he faced no pressure to do so.

The investigation into the Aug 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, has made little headway following a smear campaign against Bitar and pushback from powerful Lebanese factions, with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah saying Bitar was biased and politicized.

Seven Shi'ite Muslims were killed by gunfire that began as people were assembling on Thursday for a protest called by the Shi'ite group Hezbollah against Bitar. The clashes stirred memories of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi'ite Muslim neighbourhoods, has added to concerns for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling an economic meltdown.

Source: Reuters

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