Lebanon blast investigator charges ex PM, prosecutor

STORY: The judge probing the 2020 Beirut blast has charged Lebanon's top public prosecutor, the then-premier and other senior current and former officials in connection with the devastating explosion.

That's according to judicial sources said and court summons.

Judge Tarek Bitar unexpectedly resumed an inquiry on Monday (January 23) after it was paralyzed for more than a year.

It had been hindered by political resistance and legal complaints filed by top officials he was seeking to question.

The explosion on August 4th, 2020 killed 220 people and shattered parts of Beirut.

It was caused by hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port in poor conditions since it was unloaded in 2013.

So far, no senior official has been held to account.

Bitar has charged prime minister Hassan Diab and former ministers with homicide with probable intent, according to court summons seen by Reuters on Tuesday (January 24).

Court sources said he also charged Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat, the head of Lebanon's domestic intelligence agency Major General Abbas Ibrahim and former army commander Jean Kahwaji.

Along with other current and former security and judicial officials.

It was not immediately clear what they'd been charged with.

But one judicial source said Bitar had found Oweidat had not acted responsibly with regards to the ammonium nitrate.

Reuters could not immediately reach Diab or Oweidat for comment.

Ibrahim and Kahwaji declined to comment.

All those previously charged by Bitar have denied wrongdoing.

Oweidat on Tuesday sent Bitar an official letter saying that Bitar's probe remained suspended and that no official decision had been taken on whether he could continue investigating

That's according to a copy of the correspondence seen by Reuters.

Bitar's previous efforts to interrogate top officials over the explosion have been hindered by factions including the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The group has campaigned against Bitar as he sought to question its allies and it also accused Washington of meddling in the probe.