Lebanese court removes lead investigator into port explosion

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s highest court on Thursday decided to remove the chief prosecutor investigating last year’s massive Beirut port explosion, following legal challenges by senior officials he had accused of negligence that led to the blast, a judicial official and the country’s official news agency said.

The Court of Cassation called for a new investigating judge to be appointed to lead the probe, nearly six months after it had started.

Families of the victims and survivors have accused the ruling political class of corruption and negligence that led to the explosion of ammonium nitrate, a dangerous chemical stored in the port for years.

The New-York based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the decision to remove Investigating Judge Fadi Sawwan “makes a mockery of justice” and is an “insult to the victims”.

The decision shows the courts in Lebanon “have drawn the red lines: politicians are not subject to the rule of law”, said HRW’s Aya Majzoub.

Smoke rises after an explosion the day before at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. PHOTO: AP