Lebanon blast victims file almost 700 legal complaints

Lebanon blast victims file almost 700 legal complaints
A view shows the grain silo that was damaged in a massive explosion at Beirut port, Lebanon October 23, 2020. Picture taken October 23, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 October 2020

Lebanon blast victims file almost 700 legal complaints

Lebanon blast victims file almost 700 legal complaints
  • The explosion of a massive stockpile of ammonium nitrate in a dockside warehouse killed more than 200 people

BEIRUT: The Beirut Bar Association on Wednesday handed the public prosecutor almost 700 criminal complaints from victims of the city’s deadly August 4 port blast, Lebanon’s National News Agency said.
The explosion of a massive stockpile of ammonium nitrate in a dockside warehouse killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and ravaged swathes of the capital Beirut.
“We presented 679 complaints today, in the name of the families of those killed, wounded and affected,” Bar Association head Melhem Khalaf said, according to the NNA.
“We cannot stop until a verdict is pronounced,” Khalaf said, calling the blast “a horrific catastrophe.”
It was the first wave of complaints to be filed of around 1,400 cases being compiled by the Bar Association.
“We need to go deep with the ongoing investigations,” Khalaf added.
The blast was the country’s worst peacetime disaster.
It reignited popular outrage against the political class, after it emerged officials had known the ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely at the port for years.
Lebanese officials have rejected an international probe, despite demands both from home and abroad for an impartial investigation.
A local investigation has led to the arrest of at least 25 suspects, including the chief of the port and its customs director.
Experts from France and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation took part in the preliminary investigation.
A judicial source told AFP that Lebanon had received the report from the American experts, and was expecting one from France within the next two weeks.
“Much hinges on the French report to determine the causes of the explosion,” the source said.
According to Khalaf, the FBI report relies on information from the Lebanese agencies, whereas the French one will draw on “the results of laboratory tests.”
Lebanon has complained it has yet to receive satellite images of the port before, during and after the blast that it requested from France and Italy.


Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Updated 05 December 2020

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
  • More than 567,000 voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote
  • Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait is holding parliamentary elections Saturday under the shadow of Covid-19, with facilities laid on for citizens infected with the disease to vote in special polling stations.
The oil-rich country has enforced some of the strictest regulations in the Gulf to combat the spread of the coronavirus, imposing a months-long nationwide lockdown earlier this year.
But while some curbs have eased, over-the-top election events that traditionally draw thousands for lavish banquets are out, masks remain mandatory and temperature checks are routine when venturing outdoors.
Infected people or those under mandatory quarantine are usually confined to home, with electronic wristbands monitoring their movements.
But in an effort to include all constituents, authorities have designated five schools — one in each electoral district — where they can vote, among the 102 polling stations across the country.
Election officials are expected to be in full personal protective equipment.
Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms that enjoys wide legislative powers.
Political disputes are often fought out in the open.
Parties are neither banned nor recognized, but many groups — including Islamists — operate freely as de facto parties.
But with more than 143,917 coronavirus cases to date, including 886 deaths, the election campaign has been toned down this year.

A worker cleans desks at a polling station ahead of parliamentary elections in Abdullah Salem, Kuwait, on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)

The polls, which open at 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), will be the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, 91-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
But with the opposition weakened in recent years, no major political shifts are expected.
A few electoral banners dotted through the streets have been the only reminder of the nation’s political calendar.
Instead, this year’s campaign has mainly been fought on social networks and in the media.
More than 567,000 Kuwaiti voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote, including 29 women.
Ahmad Deyain, secretary general of the opposition group Kuwaiti Progressive Movement, said he expected a lower voter turnout than previous years after the dulled-down campaign.
The usual themes are a constant though, from promises to fight corruption and plans to address youth employment, to freedom of expression, housing, education and the thorny issue of the “bidoon,” Kuwait’s stateless minority.
From 2009 to 2013, and especially after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011, the country went through a period of political turmoil, with parliament and cabinets dissolved several times after disputes between lawmakers and the ruling family-led government.
“Kuwait is still undergoing a political crisis since 2011, and that page has not yet turned,” Deyain told AFP.
“There are still disputes over the electoral system and mismanagement of state funds.
Deyain said he expected some parliamentarians in the new National Assembly to be “more dynamic” in trying to resolve some issues.
Kuwait was the first Gulf Arab state to adopt a parliamentary system in 1962, and women in 2005 won the right to vote and to stand for election.