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Lebanon: Judge Charges PM, Ex-ministers over Beirut Port Explosion

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

December 10, 2020

Beirut Port after explosion - Credit: Ali/AdobeStock

Beirut Port after explosion - Credit: Ali/AdobeStock

Lebanon's investigating judge has charged caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers with negligence over the Beirut port blast that killed 200 people and ruined a swathe of the capital in August.

The others are former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, as well as former public works ministers Ghazi Zeaiter and Youssef Finianos, state news agency NNA said on Thursday.

Zeaiter told Reuters he would make a statement once he was officially informed of the charges. He headed the public works and transport ministry in 2014, shortly after the arrival of the Rhosus ship carrying a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate which detonated at the port.

Officials have said the cargo of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, was stored unsafely for years at the port, which lies in heart of the city.

Diab's office, Finianos and Khalil, who is a senior aide to Lebanon's influential Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Four months after one of the largest non-nuclear explosions on record, which injured thousands of people, victims are still waiting for the results of an investigation their leaders had promised would come within days of the Aug. 4 port blast.

The judge leading the official inquiry, Fadi Sawan, sent a letter last month asking parliament to probe 10 former ministers.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis and Laila Bassam; Editing by Alison Williams and Edmund Blair)