Lebanon judges resign over political interference in judiciary

Resignations comes as lawsuit against blast probe from former prime minister Hassan Diab thrown out

Activists supporting the families of those who were killed in the port blast last year hold placards during a protest in solidarity with Judge Tarek Bitar. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Three senior Lebanese judges have resigned over political interference in the country’s judiciary, as the investigation into the Beirut port blast of August 2020 flounders.

The three judges, all women, quit on Wednesday “to protest … political interference in the work of the judiciary and the undermining of decisions issued by judges and courts”, a judicial source told AFP.

The judges were not named in the report.

At least two major investigations — the probe into the port blast of August 2020 and an investigation into accusations of tax evasion and illicit enrichment by the governor of Lebanon’s central bank — have been delayed by complaints against the judges leading the probe.

The investigation into Riyad Salame has been suspended, while a lawsuit against Jean Tannous, the judge heading it, is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Tarek Bitar, who is heading the investigation into the port blast that killed more than 200 people, has been hit with a deluge of complaints from politicians he charged or called in for questioning over the summer.

On Thursday, the country’s top court rejected a lawsuit filed against Mr Bitar by former prime minister Hassan Diab and three other ex-ministers who accused him of “grave mistakes” in his investigation.

They also claimed that Mr Bitar did not have the authority to prosecute them.

All were charged with wrongdoing in the blast investigation, but their lawsuits against Mr Bitar caused the probe to be suspended. However, the investigation has not yet been able to proceed as one other lawsuit is still being examined.

Beirut blast reconstruction - in pictures

Updated: November 25, 2021, 6:49 PM