Home Europe Protests in Beirut as Lebanese capital marks three years since catastrophic port blast

Protests in Beirut as Lebanese capital marks three years since catastrophic port blast

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP

Three years after Beirut’s massive port blast, attempts to prosecute those responsible are mired in political intrigue and many Lebanese have less faith than ever in their disintegrating state institutions.

Lebanon on Friday marked three years since one of history’s biggest non-nuclear explosions rocked Beirut. Yet nobody has been held to account as political and legal pressures suspend the investigation.

The blast killed at least 218 people and wounded more than 6,500, devastated large swaths of Beirut and caused billions of euros in damages.

Authorities said the disaster was triggered by a fire in a warehouse where a vast stockpile of industrial chemical ammonium nitrate had been haphazardly stored for years. 

The main activist group representing families of those killed called for a protest march on Friday afternoon, converging on the port.

“This is a day of commemoration, mourning and protest against the Lebanese state that politicises our cause and interferes in the judiciary,” said Rima al-Zahed, whose brother was killed in the explosion.

“The judiciary is shackled, justice is out of reach, and the truth is shrouded,” she said.

The blast struck amid an economic collapse that the World Bank has dubbed one of the worst in recent history and which is widely blamed on a governing elite accused of corruption and mismanagement.

Since its early days, a probe into the explosion has faced a slew of political and legal challenges.

In December 2020, lead investigator Fadi Sawan charged former prime minister Hassan Diab and three ex-ministers with negligence.

But as political pressure mounted, Sawan was removed from the case.

The blast anniversary has also brought renewed calls for an international investigation of those responsible. 

Lebanese and international organisations, survivors and families of victims sent such an appeal to the United Nations Rights Council, saying that “on the third anniversary of the explosion, we are no closer to justice and accountability for the catastrophe.”

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