Lebanon's ex-PM flees to US despite subpoena for port blast

Lebanon's ex-PM flees to US despite subpoena for deadly port blast
2 min read
15 September, 2021
Hassan Diab has left Lebanon for the US, despite being ordered to answer questions related to the deadly Beirut port explosion that killed over 200.
Hassan Diab is accused of intentional killing and negligence [Getty]

Lebanon’s former prime minister left the country for the United States on Tuesday, his advisor said, despite a subpoena from the judge investigating last year’s devastating explosion at Beirut port.

Hassan Diab was the country’s prime minister when the explosion happened on Aug. 4, 2020. He resigned after the blast that killed over 200 people and injured over 6,000, leaving the large parts of the city devastated.

Diab was caretaker prime minister until last week, when Najib Mikati successfully formed a new government, ending months of political haggling.

As caretaker prime minister, Diab was summoned by investigative judge Tarek Bitar on accusations of intentional killing and negligence. Diab declined to be interrogated as a defendant, saying he had given his testimony in the case. Diab holds that the judges investigating the case have violated Lebanese laws that require that as a senior government official he can only be summoned after the parliament approves.

When Diab failed to show up last month for investigation, Bitar issued a subpoena and the new date for questioning was set for next Monday.

On Tuesday, Bitar issued a new subpoena to include his home address after he stepped down from the premiership.

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“He has nothing new to say,” said Laila Hatoum, Diab’s advisor. “He considers that he has nothing to do with all that until the parliament decides the course of action.”

Hatoum said Diab left for a pre-planned trip to visit his children who are studying in the United States. He has not seen them since he took office, she said.

Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilisers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on August 4. The probe shows that most government officials knew of the dangerous material stored at the port.

Diab told The Associated Press in an interview last year that he was being singled out and charged while others knew more.