According to reports quoting judicial sources, Lebanon’s top prosecutor has filed charges against the judge overseeing the investigation into the tragic blast at Beirut’s port in 2020 and has mandated the release of all suspects held in connection with the case.
The decision made by Ghassan Oweidat on Wednesday highlighted growing resistance by Lebanon’s ruling class to Judge Tarek Bitar’s attempts to reopen his investigation into the horrific explosion that left some 220 people dead, many injured, and significant portions of the Lebanese capital in ruins.
The accusations levelled against Bitar were not immediately clear.
According to reports, the judge and the freed prisoners both had travel restrictions.
Oweidat had called Bitar to the Justice Palace in Beirut around 08:00 GMT on Thursday, according to Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera.
In an effort to identify a judge to replace Bitar, the Supreme Judicial Council is also scheduled to meet at 11:00 GMT, although Khodr said that it is yet unknown whether a quorum would be present to start the process.
The legal dispute started on Monday when Bitar abruptly restarted his investigation following a 13-month hiatus brought on by political opposition to his attempts to question key officials.
According to sources, Bitar reportedly brought accusations against senior current and former officials, including Oweidat, without providing further details.
Despite growing opposition, the judge declared on Wednesday that he would continue his probe.
Oweidat “had no right” to bring the charge or release the detainees, he claimed, adding that he would “continue until I issue an indictment.”
Legal obstacles and opposition from factions had stalled the investigation into the explosion on August 4, 2020 that severely damaged a huge portion of Beirut since December 2021.
Numerous legal challenges were filed by politicians Bitar wanted to examine, including Hezbollah allies, arguing that he had no right to question them and had overstepped his authority.