BEIRUT (Dispatches) – Hezbollah said on Wednesday the U.S. is interfering in Lebanon’s investigation into last year’s massive explosion at the Beirut port, with the aim of implicating the resistance movement and its allies.
Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadallah’s response to criticism from a State Department spokesperson comes amid a developing crisis engulfing the domestic probe. The investigation was temporarily suspended Tuesday amid legal challenges from defendants against lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar.
The U.S. official’s comments are a “new violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty” that expose “the extent of interference aimed at controlling and steering the investigation,” Fadallah said.
Hezbollah’s comments are the first to directly accuse Washington of interfering and dictating how the port probe should go. Bitar is the second judge to lead the probe into what caused thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the Port of Beirut for years to explode. He has come under heavy criticism from politicians in Lebanon.
Fadallah said Washington is imposing “dictates that aim to obstruct justice and cover up the truth” against segments of the population that the U.S. considers as enemies.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech on Monday said the judge leading the Beirut port explosion investigation is being biased and politicized. He told victims of the deadly blast “you won’t get the truth”.
Nasrallah said Bitar was using “the blood of the victims to serve political interests”. He previously accused Bitar of “playing politics” on the anniversary of the blast in August.
“I say to the families of the victims, ‘if you think that this judge will get you to the truth – he won’t’,” Nasrallah said in the televised address. “We want an honest and transparent judge.”
Nasrallah called for Lebanon’s Higher Judicial Council, the country’s highest judicial authority, to convene. It can hold a vote to remove Bitar not just from the case, but from the right to work as a judge.
“Going after specific agencies, specific ministers, and a specific prime minister is clearly political targeting,” Nasrallah said, questioning why Bitar had not reached out to other former ministers who served terms during the six years the explosive material was unsafely stored at the Port of Beirut.
More than 200 people were killed in the Beirut blast on August 4, 2020, after a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored unsafely at the port for years, detonated. The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, and the most destructive single incident in Lebanon’s troubled history.
About 6,500 people were injured and entire neighborhoods in the country’s capital were destroyed.