Lebanese judge accuses prime minister, former minister of Beirut port bombing

Lebanon’s investigating judge has accused Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers of negligence over Beirut’s port explosion that killed 200 people and ravaged the capital in August, Lebanon’s official news agency said on Thursday.

Judge Fadi Sawwan on Thursday filed charges against Diab and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, as well as Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Fenianos, both former ministers of public works.

All four were charged with negligence leading to deaths following the August 4 explosion in the port of Beirut, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. The explosion was caused by the ignition of a large stockpile of explosive material that had been stored in the port for several years.

The four are the oldest people who have so far been charged in the probe, which is conducted in secret. Anger has built up over the slow investigation, the lack of response and the fact that no senior officials have been prosecuted.

About 30 other security officers and port and customs officials have been detained in the probe.

Departures, sanctions, political chaos

Diab, a former university professor, resigned a few days after the explosion, which leveled the port and destroyed large parts of the city. He currently serves as Prime Minister until his successor forms a new government.

Zeitar was Minister of Transport and Construction in 2014, followed by Fenianos in 2016, who will hold the job until the beginning of 2020. Khalil was Minister of Finance in 2014, 2016 and until 2020.

Both Khalil and Fenanios were sanctioned by the United States in September this year, the first two officials exposed to them outside the Hezbollah group.

The explosion came amid an unprecedented economic breakdown – exacerbated by pandemic-related closures – which has led to high inflation, poverty and unemployment.

France and the rest of the international community have called on Lebanon’s leaders to form a new government to break a political stalemate that has blocked billions of dollars in aid.

( Jowharwith AFP, AP and REUTERS)