Charges filed against customs officials over Lebanon port blast

Charges filed against customs officials over Lebanon port blast
A helicopter puts out a fire at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2020

Charges filed against customs officials over Lebanon port blast

Charges filed against customs officials over Lebanon port blast
  • Hazimeh was reportedly the point man for Hezbollah at the Port of Beirut
  • The 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up Aug. 4, killing more than 200 people

BEIRUT: A Lebanese prosecutor filed charges Tuesday against current and former customs officials over the massive blast at Beirut’s port in August, including a former customs chief who was reportedly the point man for the militant Hezbollah group at the facility.
State prosecutor Ghassan Khoury charged senior customs official Hani Hajj Shehadeh and former customs chief in Beirut, Moussa Hazimeh, on Tuesday, according to state-run National News Agency. The report didn’t reveal the charges or give additional details.
Hazimeh was reportedly the point man for Hezbollah at the Port of Beirut when nearly 3,000 tons of highly explosive fertilizer were stored there more than six years ago.
The 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up Aug. 4, killing more than 200 people, injuring thousands and causing damage worth billions of dollars, mostly in nearby neighborhoods.
Beirut’s port is considered one of the most corrupt institutions in the country, where ruling political factions including Hezbollah have divvied up positions and created fiefdoms.
National News Agency said that in charging Shehadeh and Hazimeh, the number of those now charged in connection with the explosion reached 33, of whom 25 are under arrest. None of the charges have been made public and the process has been highly secretive.
Riad Kobaissi, an investigative reporter with Al Jadeed TV, has followed corruption at the port and within the customs authorities since 2012. He said all the political factions in the country benefited from using the port as patronage, and most overlooked dubious dealings. He said many people knew of the initial warning about the danger of the stored ammonium nitrate in 2014 by a customs official. He said that includes Hazimeh, who Kobaissi described as Hezbollah’s former point man at the port.
NNA said the new cases were referred to Judge Fadi Sawwan, who is probing the blast. It said Sawwan had questioned the two earlier as witnesses but they will be questioned again as suspects.
The report comes amid complaints the investigation is moving too slowly. Families of the victims are desperate to know what triggered the blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.


UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships
Updated 19 January 2021

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships
  • The two ministers also discussed the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Both sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areasboth sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areas

DUBAI: The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and ways of ensuring security and stability in the region with his Cypriot counterpart on Monday,.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan reviewed the prospects of advancing relations with Cyprus in a meeting in Abu Dhabi with Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, UAE state news agency WAM reported.
The two ministers also discussed the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of enhancing international cooperation to ensure fair and equitable access to the vaccine for every country in the world.
Christodoulides praised the UAE’s significant overall efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic and the efficiency of its adopted measures in mitigating the economic and social effects of the crisis.
During his visit to the UAE, the Cypriot minister also met with the Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC), Saqr Ghobash, accompanied with the Ambassador of Cyprus to the UAE, Yannis Michaelides.
During the meeting, both sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areas.
Ghobash said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on their parliamentary cooperation is required, in addition to reinforcing the role of joint parliamentary friendship committees.
A parliamentary friendship committee between the two countries will hold a meeting in the first quarter of 2021, Ghobash said, and stressed the importance of improving their coordination during global parliamentary events.
Christodoulides said that the UAE was a leading regional and international stature, noting that it is a strategic partner of his country.
He also conveyed the invitation of the President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus to Ghobash to visit Cyprus as head of a parliamentary delegation, to discuss ways of reinforcing their parliamentary ties.