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Former Public Works Minister to Be Questioned over Beirut Port Blast

Former Public Works Minister to Be Questioned over Beirut Port Blast

Tuesday, 16 February, 2021 - 08:15
A general view shows the damaged grain silo following the blast in Beirut's port area, Lebanon. (Reuters)

The judicial investigator probing the Beirut port explosion, Judge Fadi Sawwan summoned former public works minister Youssef Fenianos and the port’s former customs chief Moussa Hazimeh to appear for interrogation next Thursday, Lebanon’s National News Agency said on Monday.

Six months after one of the largest non-nuclear explosions on record, which injured thousands of people, victims are still awaiting the result of the investigation, although Lebanese leaders had promised it would come within days.

Sawwan had already called former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, along with former public works ministers Ghazi Zoaiter and Fenianos for questioning over the blast.

However, Zoaiter and Hassan Khalil refused to attend the questioning, saying that as current members of parliament, they enjoy immunity.

The highly explosive chemicals that triggered the Beirut port explosion last August 4 were stored for years in poor conditions at the port, which lies in the heart of the capital.

Since August, Sawwan has brought charges against 37 people.

But many Lebanese remain skeptical that senior politicians will be held to account, fearing the truth will never emerge from a system riven by corruption.

Lebanese authorities have failed in the past six months to deliver any justice for the catastrophic explosion, Human Rights Watch said in a report released early this month.

Meanwhile, lawyers of Palestinians, Egyptians and Syrians killed in the explosion are following up on a letter they presented last week to Sawwan.

The four lawyers had filed a complaint against the owner Savaro, of a British-registered company possibly linked to the blast, and sole director at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, and the company's former director Greta Bieliene, requesting they be questioned to reveal the real owners of the company.

Last month, a Lebanese lawyers’ association asked British authorities to halt the voluntary liquidation of Savaro.

In the Jan. 25 letter to British lawmaker Margaret Hodge, the Beirut Bar Association (BBA) said it had asked the UK corporate registry, Companies House, to prevent, Savaro Ltd., which it described as an “indicted entity”, from being wound up in order to allow investigations into its possible role in the blast to continue.

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