Beirut blast: judge frees six people detained in investigation

Inquiry yet to produce any results, eight months after the explosion

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Six people detained in the Beirut port blast investigation will be freed after a judge approved their release on Thursday, the Lebanese official news agency said.

The investigation has been widely criticised for failing to produce results and for targeting mostly low-level employees while top officials, including the caretaker prime minister, refuse to be questioned, with few consequences.

Cynthia Naddaf, whose husband Joseph was jailed for eight months, said she was overjoyed with the decision.

“We are so happy. There is just some paperwork that needs to be filled and my husband will be released today,” she said.

The investigation into the Beirut port explosion has stalled for the past eight months, underlining the difficulty of seeking accountability and justice in Lebanon.

The Lebanese judge who had summoned Lebanese officials, including caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab, was replaced in February after two parliamentarians whom he sought to interrogate asked for his removal.

Mr Naddaf is one of four low-to-mid-ranking port officials to be released. He had issued a warning about the dangerous chemicals stored at the port that caught fire and exploded last August, killing more than 200 people and destroying large parts of the capital.

Mrs Naddaf said justice was served for her husband but that “we are still awaiting justice for those who died in the explosion”.

Mr Naddaf was released with Charbel Fawaz, Elias Shaheen, Khaled Al Khatib, Johnny Gerges and Mikhael Al Murr. The judge denied the release requests of other detainees.

Monia Taraby, whose husband Daoud Fayad was arrested at the same time as Mr Naddaf, said she had high hopes he would be released with his colleague.

“It’s a big disappointment. We’ve been waiting for him to come home for the past eight months,” she said.

The most senior port official arrested in the blast investigation is head of customs Badri Daher, who is still in detention.

Those jailed in relation to the port explosion could be held for years, legal experts told The National, because they are being tried by an exceptional court with no cap on pre-trial detention.