Former army commander questioned about explosion in Beirut port
Lebanon’s lead investigator into the Beirut port explosion on August 4, 2020, Judge Tarek Bitar, interviewed former army chief General Jean Qahwaji on Monday, but postponed any legal action against him , pending a second interrogation scheduled for September 28.
The state-run National News Agency (ANI) said Qahwaji was questioned in the presence of his lawyer Antoine Toubiya and the personal prosecution team that represents the families of the victims and those affected.
The court session ended as Bitar delayed taking action against Qahwaji after the latter’s lawyers asked the judge to first question former army intelligence chief Kamil Daher in connection with the explosion of the port, âwrote ANI.
Toubiya told a local TV station that at the next hearing he would present documents proving his client’s innocence.
Qahwaji, who commanded the Lebanese army in 2013 when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate entered the port, is part of an indictment Bitar issued on July 2 against a number of former military leaders and security, accused of having a role in the explosion.
The list includes former director of military intelligence Brigadier General Kamil Daher, former Brigadier General in Military Intelligence Ghassan Gharzeddine and former Brigadier General in Military Intelligence Jawdat Oueidat.
As Bitar interrogated Qahwaji, family members of the blast victims gathered at the entrance to Block 9 of the port amid strict security measures.
They demanded the immediate lifting of the political immunity offered to anyone questioned by Bitar.
Ibrahim Hoteit, a representative of the families of the victims, said Lebanese authorities were trying to manipulate the investigation, adding that the families rejected maintaining political immunity for officials.
He said families are planning a number of escalating measures until justice is served.