Security forces fired tear gas on Tuesday (July 13th) at angry demonstrators protesting outside the residence in Beirut of a minister accused of blocking the investigation into the explosion at the port of the Lebanese capital that occurred about a year ago . An as yet unknown number of protesters were injured, most from tear gas inhalation, according to local media. The security forces reported about 20 wounded in their ranks.
Relatives of the victims of the explosion on August 4, 2020 at the port of Beirut, which killed more than 200 people, began to demonstrate in the afternoon before being joined by dozens of other demonstrators in the evening. Protesters attempted to force entry into the building of acting interior minister Mohamed Fahmi, and riot police in force used batons and tear gas to push them back. The demonstration continued into the late evening.
Rescuers treated demonstrators on the spot who were suffocating from tear gas. A man was injured in the head after being beaten by members of the security forces.
More than 200 dead and 6,500 injured
On August 4, 2020, the gigantic explosion was triggered by a fire in a warehouse at the port that housed tons of stored ammonium nitrate “Without precautionary measures” by the authorities’ own admission. In addition to more than 200 dead, the explosion left more than 6,500 injured and destroyed entire neighborhoods of the Lebanese capital.
A local investigation has still not yielded anything, no official having been held to account. The demonstration, called for by relatives of the victims of the explosion who accuse political leaders of interfering in the investigation, takes place after Mr. Fahmi rejected earlier this month a request by the investigating judge , Tarek Bitar, to audition Abbas Ibrahim, the director of the powerful General Security.
“By refusing to lift the immunity of Abbas Ibrahim, the Minister of the Interior intervenes between us, the relatives of the victims, and justice”, regretted Paul Najjar, who lost his three-year-old daughter in the drama. “He kills us a second time”, told Agence France-Presse Mr. Najjar, present at the demonstration. Protesters ripped open the doors to the entrance to Mr. Fahmi’s apartment building, displayed portraits of the victims and placed white coffins in front of the building. “The people want the fall of the regime”, they chanted.
NGOs turn to the UN
The investigating judge in charge of the investigation, Tarek Bitar, has asked Parliament to lift the immunity of three deputies who have held ministerial positions “With a view to bringing proceedings for potential intention of homicide” and “Negligence and breaches”. Parliament then called for “Evidence” before lifting the immunity, which the judge refused.
In June, around 50 NGOs, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, called for a UN investigation into the tragedy after denouncing “Flagrant political interference, the immunity of senior politicians and violations of due process” in the Lebanese investigation.