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Berri Says Parliament Ready to Lift Immunity for Beirut Blast Probe

Berri Says Parliament Ready to Lift Immunity for Beirut Blast Probe

Thursday, 29 July, 2021 - 11:15
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon January 15, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Speaker Nabih Berri said on Thursday the Lebanese legislature was ready to lift the immunity of its members in order allow for questioning over last year's massive port explosion in the capital Beirut.

The August 4 blast killed over 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed large parts of the city. Nearly a year later, however, no top officials have been questioned over the disaster, angering many Lebanese.

"The priority of parliament was and will continue to be complete cooperation with the judiciary," Berri said in a statement after a meeting with Saad Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement.

Hariri had called for lawmakers' immunity to be lifted earlier this week by suspending all constitutional and legal regulations that allow for it.

Berri did not say when immunity would be lifted or how.

A probe into the port blast led by judge Tarek Bitar has been hindered over the past month as requests sent to parliament and the government to lift immunity and enable questioning of several top officials were either declined or stalled.

Major questions remain unanswered, including why a large shipment of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in bombs and fertilizer, was left stored in the middle of a crowded city for years after being unloaded in 2013.

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