Lebanese court removes judge leading investigation on port blast

A Lebanese court ordered the removal of the judge investigating the Beirut port blast and the case to be assigned to another judge, state-run media and a judicial source said on Thursday.

The Court of Cassation made the decision to remove judge Fadi Sawan from the case.

“We are back to square one in the investigation of the August 4 Beirut port blast,” a judicial source told dpa.

The blast was caused by tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been inadequately stored in the port. At least 193 people were killed, 6,000 injured and some 300,000 displaced by the explosion.

“This is a setback for the victims of the blast as now the justice minister will have to name a new investigative judge who will have to launch a new investigation all over again,” said the source, who requested anonymity.

In December, Sawan filed charges against caretaker Premier Hassan Diab, former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former public works ministers Youssef Finianos and Ghazi Zeaiter.

They were being charged with failing to take the necessary steps to head off the devastating blast.

Two of the ministers, Zeaiter and Khalil, filed in December a request at the Court of Cassation to remove Sawan from the investigation, according to the state-run National News Agency (NNA).

Families of the blast victims and critics have accused the government of knowing about the ammonium nitrate which were stored at the port but failing to take action.