Lebanon .. Parliament ignores Aoun’s objection and confirms the new date for the elections, and Diab again eludes Judge Al-Bitar
Lawyers for former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab filed a lawsuit against the state to stop the work of the judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion case.
The Lebanese Parliament has re-ratified the Legislative Elections Law in its previous version, which stipulates that the elections date will be brought forward from May to March 27 next year, despite the opposition of the President of the Republic.
The vote on the law – today, Thursday – came in the wake of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s response to Parliament, in objection to the approaching election date.
Aoun believes that bringing the elections closer will lead to the reluctance of groups of voters to vote for climatic reasons, and more than 10,000 people will be deprived of the right to vote because they will not reach the voting age on the scheduled date.
Most parliamentary blocs voted in favor of the law, with the exception of the Strong Lebanon bloc, which is loyal to the President of the Republic.
The Council approved the law during today’s vote by 77 deputies to 61, but some raised concerns after the vote about the completion of a quorum for the session, according to the Anadolu Agency.
In another context, the judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion, Judge Tariq Al-Bitar, suspended today, Thursday, an interrogation session that was scheduled to hear former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, after he was informed of the content of a lawsuit filed by the latter against him, according to a judicial source.
The source told Agence France-Presse that Al-Bitar “was informed of Diab’s lawsuit against him, and suspended the procedures for the interrogation session that was scheduled for today until the General Authority of the Court of Cassation decided the case.”
Diab’s defense team had preceded his interrogation session with a lawsuit he submitted yesterday, Wednesday, to the General Assembly of the Court of Cassation, to “dispute the Lebanese state for grave errors” attributed to the judicial investigator.
The lawsuit was based – according to a judicial source – on two points: the first, that the crime of the port explosion “is not within the jurisdiction of the Judicial Council,” and the second accuses Al-Bitar of “violating a constitutional provision that limits the prosecution of presidents and ministers to the Supreme Council for the trial of presidents and ministers only.”
Informing Al-Bitar today, Thursday, of the content of the case – according to the source – requires stopping all proceedings to prosecute Diab, based on Article 751 of the Code of Civil Procedure, until the court decides on the basis of the case.
Diab had previously refrained from attending several interrogation sessions set by Al-Bitar since receiving the investigation file and his allegations against current and former political and security officials.
On August 26, Al-Bitar signed a subpoena against Diab after he failed to attend a scheduled interrogation session, in a move that sparked sharp political criticism, most notably from Hezbollah and former prime ministers.
At the time, Al-Bitar assigned the security forces to bring Diab to his department in the Palace of Justice, 24 hours before the date of an interrogation session that he set on September 20, but Diab preempted the date of his interrogation by traveling to the United States for a family visit.
Since his allegations against Diab, former ministers and security officials, many fear that political pressure will lead to the isolation of Al-Bitar, similar to his predecessor Fadi Sawan, who was removed last February after his allegations against political officials.
The huge explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which the authorities attributed to storing large quantities of ammonium nitrate without preventive measures, killed at least 214 people and injured more than 6,500 others, as well as extensive destruction in the capital.
It later emerged that officials at several levels – political, security and judicial – were aware of the dangers of storing this substance and did not move a finger.
During the past months, Al-Bitar’s attempts to interrogate political and security officials clashed with political interference and lawsuits, and the investigation was suspended more than once.
Several political forces criticize the course of the judicial investigation, but Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement, form the spearhead of this position, and they demand the removal of Al-Bitar. And they refuse for the government to hold any session unless it is dedicated to examining the position of the judicial investigator.
A protest demonstration against al-Bitar’s performance was organized by the two parties this month, during which heavy gunfire was investigated by the military judiciary, which ended with the killing of 7 people, mostly affiliated with the two parties, Hezbollah and Amal.