Beirut port blast families issue immunity ultimatum

Spokesman tells officials to 'beware the wrath of the sad'

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The families of people killed in the Beirut port explosion have given Lebanese authorities 30 hours to lift immunity from officials who have been summoned for questioning, or face a major escalation.

Ibrahim Hoteit, a spokesman for a committee of victims of the blast, told officials to “beware the wrath of the sad".

“August 4 is the day of our pain and tears, and we’ll go to the street to remember that pain which may explode in anger at any moment,” he said on Monday.

“We are giving the authorities 30 hours to find a solution to the issue of immunity.”

The deadline set by the association of victims’ families will expire on the eve of August 4, the anniversary of the blast.

The association did not say what actions would be taken if the government failed to meet the deadline, but widespread protests are expected in Beirut and across the country on Wednesday.

The warning came as former foreign minister Gebran Bassil, who heads the largest party in parliament — the Free Patriotic Movement- called on the speaker of parliament Nabih Berri to hold a special session on August 4th to lift the immunities.

“The judicial investigator must prove to be fair and transparent. We call on him to issue the necessary report to insurance companies and to confirm that no one will be arrested before being heard,” he told a press conference.

Families are still awaiting justice, and many have been left frustrated and enraged.

Tarek Bitar, the judge investigating the explosion, last month requested permission to question several senior officials in connection with the blast. His list included two members of parliament, a former interior minister and General Security chief Maj Gen Abbas Ibrahim.

Several of the requests were denied, prompting angry demonstrations outside the home of Interior Minister Mohammed Fehmi, who refused to lift the immunity protecting Gen Ibrahim.

Parliament has not yet ruled on several other requests to lift immunity.

At least 214 people were killed and nearly 8,000 injured, when hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded at the port last summer.

Updated: August 4th 2021, 5:51 AM
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