Lebanon's Beirut port explosion judge suspends ex-PM summons

Lebanon's Beirut port explosion judge suspends ex-PM Diab summons after lawsuit filed
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Investigating judge Tarek Bitar has been repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to investigate last year's deadly Beirut port explosion.
The summons targeting Hassan Diab has been suspended [Lebanese Gov't Press Office/Handout/Anadolu/Getty]

The judge investigating last year's deadly Beirut port explosion suspended a summons targeting the former Lebanese premier Hassan Diab on Wednesday, after Diab filed a lawsuit against him.

The judge, Tarek Bitar, has been thwarted at every turn in his probe of the 4 August 2020 explosion that killed more than 200 people and disfigured parts of the capital.

"Bitar was informed of the lawsuit against him, and suspended the questioning that was scheduled for today," a judicial source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Diab was prime minister at the time of the explosion, and is among the senior officials Bitar wants to hear as part of his investigation.

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Diab's defence team launched a lawsuit arguing Bitar does not have the authority to interrogate him.

Lebanon's political heavyweights have all denied responsibility for the country's worst peacetime disaster, but have also pulled every trick in the book to dodge Bitar's questions.

Former interior minister Nohad Machnouk, who was also handed a summons, made the same move to avoid questioning, leaving the investigation in limbo once again, the judicial official said.

Several of Lebanon's main political groups, including the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah, want Bitar removed.

Rights groups and legal watchdogs have accused the entire political class of systematically obstructing justice.