Head of Beirut port blast victims calls for removal of judge

Head of Beirut port blast victims group calls for removal of Judge Bitar
2 min read
16 October, 2021
A video of Ibrahim Hoteit calling for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar confused many Lebanese, given his support for the investigator in the past.
In his video, Ibrahim Hoteit, condemned what he called US intervention into the investigation.

Ibrahim Hoteit, the leader of the Beirut port explosion victims association, called for the current investigator into the blast to step down in a video released late Friday night.

Accusing the judge of “politicisation” and condemning “US intervention” in the case, Hoteit asked Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the investigation, to remove himself from the case.

“America, has never supported any issue unless it had an ulterior motive,” Hoteit said in the video.

The video came as a surprise to many in Lebanon, as Hoteit has been a vocal supporter of Bitar over the last year.

On the same day that he released the video, Hoteit, told a Kuwaiti newspaper that suspects summoned by Bitar should appear before him. “They killed our children … and now they’re killing the investigation,” he said in reference to the deadly clashes on Thursday which left seven dead and 30 injured.

The video led to speculation on social media that Hoteit was being forced to read a statement, though there was no evidence to suggest this at the time.

Other members of the victims' families group said that the video was made under duress. "We urge you all to consider [the video] as being done under pressure to divide our communities," Paul Naggear, a vocal member of the association said in a message to reporters on 16 October.

The port investigation has generated great political tension in Lebanon, with Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal accusing Bitar of working on the behalf of foreign powers.

The two group’s protest against the judge on Thursday erupted into the worst violence Lebanon has seen in over a decade, a physical manifestation of the political crisis unfolding over the investigation.

Other Lebanese political groups, such as the Lebanese Forces, have continued to support Bitar in leading the probe.

The Beirut Port explosion left at least 218 dead and 6,500 injured. A year on, no one has been charged in connection with the explosion.

This article has been amended to include the statement of Paul Naggear.