Can Hizbollah Remove Justice Bitar From The Beirut Blast Probe?

Published October 16th, 2021 - 07:19 GMT
Fighting in Beirut
Fighting in Beirut (AFP)

A Lebanese judge investigating the explosion at the Beirut Port again drew further attention after violence left seven dead in the capital. 

Protest Thursday by supporters of Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal Movement was held to demand the removal of Tarek Bitar after a court dismissed a complaint and allowed him to continue the investigation.

Unknown gunmen opened fire on protesters from rooftops near the Palace of Justice, forcing demonstrators and journalists to take cover.

Clashes then broke out between masked gunmen and the snipers, leaving six dead and 32 wounded, before fatalities rose to seven on Friday.

Bitar was appointed to the Beirut Criminal Court four years ago. He has dealt with cases, especially regarding murder and drug dealing.

In February, he was appointed to investigate the Beirut Port blast and was supported by a significant part of the public, especially families of those who lost loved ones in the explosion.

He drew reaction from the Amal Movement, Hezbollah and the Christian Marada Party because several times he has been asked to be removed from the investigation but the Court of Appeal dismissed those requests.  

Who is Tarek Bitar?

Tarek al-Bitar was born in 1974 to a Christian family in Aydamon in Akkar province in northern Lebanon.

After completing his primary and high school education in Tripoli, Bitar graduated from Lebanon University Faculty of Law in 1999.

Bitar, who served at different levels of the judiciary in Tripoli between 2004 and 2010, continued his duties as the Northern Chief Prosecutor for seven years, when he was appointed in 2010.

Since heading the Beirut Criminal Court in 2017, he managed to reduce the accumulated judicial files of more than 900,000 to below 500,000 in his four-year tenure.

On Feb. 20, the Lebanese Supreme Judicial Council appointed that Bitar would replace Fadi Savvan to investigate the explosion at the Port of Beirut that occurred last year.

In July, he decided to release low-profile detainees in the first months of his investigation.

As part of the investigation, Bitar demanded parliamentary immunity for several lawmakers, who are ministers, when they testify. He now faces backlash from some politicians.

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