Families of Beirut explode victims behind the judge under pressure | MCU Times

Families of Beirut explode victims behind the judge under pressure

BEIRUT (AP) – The families of the victims of Beirut’s massive port blast last year confirmed on Saturday their support for …

BEIRUT (AP) – The families of the victims of Beirut’s massive port bombing last year confirmed their support for the judge leading the investigation into the explosion, despite growing calls for the expulsion of the militant Hezbollah group and its allies.

The families’ statement was apparently intended to counter a video posted by their social media spokesman late Friday urging Judge Tarek Bitar to resign.

The spokesman, Ibrahim Hoteit, could not be reached for comment. It was unclear if he had made the video under pressure. The families said he had not coordinated with them, which he always does before he made the announcement, and that the video surprised them.

Since the explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020, which killed at least 215 people, the families of the victims have taken on an increasingly prominent role in Lebanon with their demands for accountability. After the explosion, documents showed that several senior politicians and security chiefs were aware of the hundreds of tons of highly flammable ammonium nitrate that were stored at random in a port warehouse and did nothing about it.

On Thursday, clashes broke out on Beirut streets between two camps, opposing and supporting the judge in the probe, killing seven and wounding dozens.

Violence broke out in a protest organized by Hezbollah and Amal groups, which has called for Bitar to be removed. The two groups have suggested that the investigation is moving towards holding them responsible for the explosion.

“We, the families of more than 200 martyrs and thousands of wounded and hundreds of thousands of people who suffered injuries, have put our faith in investigating judge Tarek Bitar,” the families said.

In the video, the spokesman demands that the judge resign because “the situation has turned into the shedding of the blood of innocent people” – a reference to Thursday’s violence. The spokesman’s younger brother was killed in the harbor explosion.

Judge Bitar has indicted and issued arrest warrants on Lebanon’s former finance and public ministers, both close allies of Hezbollah. Bitar has charged the two along with another former prime minister and prime minister for premeditated murder and negligence that led to the explosion.

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