Lebanese judge goes after top officials over port blast

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The Lebanese judge leading the investigation into last year’s massive explosion at Beirut’s port an-nounced Friday he intends to pursue senior politicians and former and current security chiefs in the case, and requested permission for their prosecution, state media reported.

The move was praised by families of the victims and survivors as a bold step by Bitar, whose predecessor was removed following legal challenges by two former ministers he had accused of negligence that led to the explosion.

Judge Tarek Bitar confirmed charges filed by his predecessor against outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab and summoned him for questioning, National News Agency reported. He did not set a date.

Bitar also asked the government and the interior ministry for permission to question two of Lebanon’s most prominent security chiefs — the head of General Security Directorate, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, and the head of State Security, Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba.

Separately, he asked parliament to lift immunity for two legislators who were charged by his predeces-sor, and a former interior minister.

Bitar also filed charges against former army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji and former head of military intelligence
Brig. Gen. Kameel Daher, as well as two other re-tired intelligence generals, and said he will also be pursuing judges.

Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on Aug. 4, killing 211 people, injuring more than 6,000 and devastating nearby neighborhoods.

The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explo-sions ever recorded and was the most destructive single incident in Lebanon’s troubled history.—AP

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