Jailed British Iranian in solitary for 5 months

British-Iranian workers’ rights campaigner Mehran Raoof, 64, has been held in solitary confinement for five months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. (Amnesty/Ehsan Iran 88 Wikpedia/File Photos)
British-Iranian workers’ rights campaigner Mehran Raoof, 64, has been held in solitary confinement for five months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. (Amnesty/Ehsan Iran 88 Wikpedia/File Photos)
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Updated 21 March 2021

Jailed British Iranian in solitary for 5 months

British-Iranian workers’ rights campaigner Mehran Raoof, 64, has been held in solitary confinement for five months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. (Amnesty/Ehsan Iran 88 Wikpedia/File Photos)
  • Workers’ rights campaigner Mehran Raoof, 64, in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison
  • Amnesty International: He is an arbitrarily detained ‘prisoner of conscience’

LONDON: British-Iranian workers’ rights campaigner Mehran Raoof, 64, has been held in solitary confinement for five months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after he was secretly recorded talking about politics in a cafe, human rights campaigners have revealed.

Raoof was arrested at his home in Tehran in October and taken to Evin, where Iran keeps political prisoners and dual nationals. There are frequent allegations of torture at the prison.

Satar Rahmani, a London-based colleague of Raoof, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the former London teacher was helping to translate English-language news articles into Farsi around the time of his arrest.

“He and 15 other workers were arrested. They were using a coffee shop as a place to talk about workers’ rights,” Rahmani said.

“Without their knowing, there was a spy, a young girl, in the coffee shop who secretly recorded their discussions, and that led to the arrests.”

Raoof’s contact with the outside world has been limited to a brief telephone call three months ago with a distant relative in Iran.

While nine other suspects have been bailed, he is being held in ward 2A of Evin, where British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals have been imprisoned. 

Amnesty International said Raoof is an arbitrarily detained “prisoner of conscience,” and expressed concern that he could be given a sentence of up to 16 years. 

Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded the “immediate release” of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other controversially detained Britons in a telephone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it was not asked to provide consular assistance to Raoof, adding they would not raise a case without permission of the detainee or their family.

“We continue to raise the issue of British dual national detentions with the Iranian authorities,” an FCDO spokesperson said.


UN urges ceasefire in Marib for ‘safe passage’

UN urges ceasefire in Marib for ‘safe passage’
Updated 21 sec ago

UN urges ceasefire in Marib for ‘safe passage’

UN urges ceasefire in Marib for ‘safe passage’
  • Marib, Shabwa and Al-Bayda provinces have all seen an escalation in fighting in recent weeks

SANAA: The UN has called for a halt to fighting in a district of Yemen’s oil-rich Marib province that pits government forces supported by the Arab coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Marib, Shabwa and Al-Bayda provinces have all seen an escalation in fighting in recent weeks, resulting in “a devastating impact on civilians,” according to David Gressly, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.
The security situation has been particularly difficult in Marib’s Abedia district, where the UN says the movement of aid and some 35,000 people has been “extremely restricted,” including for 17,000 “extremely vulnerable” people who found refuge there from conflict in other areas of Yemen.
“I call on all parties involved in the fighting to agree now to a cessation of hostilities for Abedia district to allow for the safe passage of civilians and aid workers, and for the evacuation of all of those wounded in the fighting,” Gressly said in a statement.
The fighting in Marib — where the Houthis are battling to seize the provincial capital Marib city, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen — displaced some 10,000 people in September alone, the highest monthly figure so far this year.
Abedia is about 100 km from Marib city, which had between 20,000 and 30,000 inhabitants before the war, but has seen its population swell to hundreds of thousands by Yemenis displaced from earlier front lines.
With about 139 refugee camps in Marib province, according to the government, hosting around 2.2 million people, many displaced civilians have become caught in the line of fire once again.
The Houthis began a big push to seize Marib in February and, after a lull, they renewed their campaign in September, prompting intense air bombardment from the coalition.
The coalition entered the war in 2015, after the Houthis captured the capital Sanaa the previous year.

Hospitality’s next generation envisions a more ethical and sustainable hotel industry

Hospitality’s next generation envisions a more ethical and sustainable hotel industry
Updated 39 min 55 sec ago

Hospitality’s next generation envisions a more ethical and sustainable hotel industry

Hospitality’s next generation envisions a more ethical and sustainable hotel industry
  • Hotelschool the Hague created Sustainable Hospitality Challenge to provide a platform for hospitality professionals
  • Students are seen as future drivers of taste by their willingness to challenge the hospitality industry status quo

DUBAI: What attracts guests to a hotel? Fine dining, Egyptian cotton sheets and 24-hour room service, certainly. But that model of hospitality may be changing — at least if a new generation of hoteliers, bar owners and restaurateurs has its way.

Rather than reviewing the contents of the minibar or revising the coffee shop menu, this new breed of hotel operator is intent on combating loneliness, sourcing from local farmers, fighting climate change and building a sense of community.

In 2014, Hotelschool the Hague, a training institute, created the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge to provide a platform for the next generation of hospitality professionals who want to reinvent what hotels and restaurants have to offer.

These students are seen as future drivers of taste by their willingness to challenge the industry’s status quo. NEOM, the futuristic smart city in northwest Saudi Arabia, sponsored this year’s competition.

Saudi Arabia's natural beauty is matched by the opulent interiors of Riyadh's premium hotels (Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh/ Expedia.com)

“The NEOM giga-project, which we all call ‘the city of the future,’ aims to incorporate smart-city technologies and innovation with a focus on sustainability,” Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality and chair of the jury, told Arab News.

“It comes as no surprise that NEOM has sponsored the challenge this year, bringing all finalists to the event in the UAE.”

The event invited 30 universities from across the globe to submit ideas that would help the industry play its part in reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Last month, six finalists presented their concepts to a jury of hospitality industry investors in Dubai.

Eve Mignot, a member of the winning team from Switzerland’s Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, said hospitality is at a crossroads. The sector has historically lagged behind other industries when it comes to embracing change, she said.

“It is time to reverse this stereotype and stigma and become leaders in sustainable innovations. With our concept, we anticipate the hospitality industry of 2050 to be a community builder, innovator and a responsible and ethical member of society.”

Marloes Knippenberg CEO Kerten Hospitality. (Supplied)

The winning team proposed a concept dubbed “Shared Economic Value through Co-living Cooperative Opportunities,” or SEVCCO, which aims to incorporate sustainability through communal living operated by hospitality companies, for which they see immense potential in growing cities.

This will require a reimagining of lifestyles, business models and strategies. “There has never been a more pressing time to reinvent the industry,” Mignot said.

The team hopes this concept of “neo-hospitality” will transform societies and become a driving force that inspires communities and other industries to engage in the transformation of the world by 2050.

Lukas Lauber, another team member, said that while oil has accelerated growth and development in the Middle East, secondary consumption of oil has had negative consequences in terms of climate change and its effects on the environment.

This photograph taken on July 23, 2021 shows a view of the Park Royal Collection Hotel at Pickering Street in Singapore. (AFP)

However, in recent years, many countries in the region have adopted diversification strategies to their national economies as well as introduced policies to reduce their dependence on oil reserves and promote renewable energy. This is where SEVCCO comes in.

“Countries in the Middle East are hoping to attract foreign investment. A large part of this strategy involves tourism and hospitality, as seen by the re-branding of Dubai as a tourism hub and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy whereby it seeks to develop cities and destinations,” Lauber told Arab News.

As countries in the region develop, he said sustainable communities and cities must be built to promote a more cyclical and regenerative society. “This is where we promote SEVCCO, the creation of co-living environments for tomorrow,” said Stefano Abedum de Lima Hanzawa, a third team member.

“It is imperative that the Middle East incorporates sustainability and regenerative growth into their strategy for economic diversification and development.”


* NEOM, the futuristic smart city in northwest Saudi Arabia, sponsored this year’s Sustainable Hospitality Challenge competition.

* Some 30 universities were invited to submit ideas that would help the hospitality industry play its part in achieving the UN’s SDGs.

These concerns are made more pressing as the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals draws nearer. By then, national economies must mobilize to prevent a 1.5 Celsius increase in global temperatures and implement strategies to shift away from fossil-fueled economies.

The team developed the SEVCCO concept to empower individuals and communities to come together and co-create a city of the future that complies with these goals.

“The concept of cognitive cities is gaining traction, as seen by the NEOM development in Saudi Arabia, and this acceleration and momentum will continue to grow,” Hanzawa said.

“We believe cyclical and sustainable co-living has incredible potential to change the way we behave and live for a better tomorrow. We wish to tackle the most pressing issues such as urban loneliness — exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Muslim pilgrims add food to their plates from the buffet of a restaurant at a luxury hotel overlooking the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, and its encompassing Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Makkah ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP/File Photo)

Other ills listed by the competitors include unsustainable production and consumption of scarce resources, resource inefficiencies, housing shortages experienced by generations Y and Z, growing elderly care home demand, the difficulties of waste management and the challenges of reducing carbon footprints by 2030.

“SHC brings forth innovative ideas about sustainable, implementable projects. The corporate world launches and brings them to life only if and when they are presented to them,” said Knippenberg. “The challenge (has) become a platform that reaches decision-makers today and is not just a school engagement.”

This year, the initiative brought together the student community, the corporate world, and investors. As 70 percent of the Middle East’s population are younger than 35, the competition is relevant to the region, the organizers said, as governments invest heavily in shifting toward knowledge-based economies.

“Especially in the Middle East, there is a great opportunity to implement ‘out of the box’ ideas,” said Paul Griep, director of industry and alumni relations at Hotelschool The Hague and founder of the challenge.

“As the region grows exponentially, it is of utmost importance for the region to become the showroom of the world when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions. Sustainability projects are the core of the multiple giga-projects in Saudi Arabia, (such as) NEOM.”

Picture from thestage from the award ceremony on stage at AHIC, in September 2021, with members of the jury and the winners. (Supplied)

Aside from EHL, the Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland, the Hotel Management School Maastricht Zuyd and the Hotelschool The Hague, Ryerson University from Canada, and CY Cergy Paris University in France took part, as did students from the Middle East.

The judges said the SEVCCO concept developed by EHL won out because it looked long term.

“Their concept was unique, well thought of and very 2050,” Knippenberg said. “Their idea seems like a natural evolution — community build, supporting the locality and the local supply chain and doing things with a truly sustainable mindset.”

Griep said that the younger generation coming into management is especially passionate about sustainability. “In fact, they no longer wish for it but actually require it,” he said.

“It has been proven that, thanks to this mindset, innovative solutions have already been developed. The challenge provides an opportunity for these students to work with industry partners, universities and companies alike, which help them make their concepts become real hospitality projects.”


Twitter: @CalineMalek

19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead

19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead
Updated 15 October 2021

19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead

19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead
  • Specialized military units are still investigating the direct cause of the deadly shootout
  • Saudia Arabia condemned the gunfights, said Lebanon needs “real, serious change”

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army on Friday set up checkpoints in the Tayouneh area and on roads leading to Beirut’s northern and southern suburbs after gunfights left seven people dead on Thursday.
Investigations by specialized military units have not identified the direct cause of the clashes between armed members from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on one side, and opposing gunmen that the two parties claimed were from the Lebanese Forces Party.
“The army command’s statement about Thursday’s events left things ambiguous until further investigations,” a military source told Arab News. “But what we are sure of is that the sniper shots fired at Hezbollah and Amal targeted the head, chest, and abdomen areas as most injuries were among those.”
The shootout lasted more than three hours and also left 32 people injured, including two soldiers. 
What was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration on Thursday quickly turned into anarchy. Hezbollah and the Amal Movement had hit the streets demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation of the Beirut port blast before bullets and rocket-propelled grenades started flying.
On Friday, the military source said “13 persons were arrested, including concierges of the buildings that snipers used to shoot at the demonstrators in the streets from their rooftops. Members affiliated with the Lebanese Forces party, who were spotted on the battlefield, were also arrested. The army resorted to CCTV footage for evidence.”

Later in the evening, state National News Agency said Lebanon had detained 19 people in relation to recent gunfire in Beirut.
A national day of mourning for the victims was declared on Friday as schools, banks, and government offices across Lebanon were shut down. Guns were fired in the air during funerals for the victims in Beirut’s southern suburbs and Bekaa.
The full extent of damage caused to buildings, properties, and parked cars during the shootout was revealed on Friday. People who returned to their homes expressed deep anger at the events and asked, “Who will compensate us for the human and material losses?”
Signs of destruction were left by the B7 grenades while bullet holes were very clear on the buildings in the Tayouneh area. An uneasy calm reigned on Friday as shops were closed and very few people walked in the streets. All cars and motorcycles that passed through the area were searched by authorities.
In order to prevent more escalation, a military source said the airborne division was assisting the army in Ain Remaneh and Chiyah, “in case something happens, given that this area has become very sensitive.”
Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, said he is “certainly worried” about the political and economic situation in Lebanon as it requires action “now.” He said the events over the past two days showed that Lebanon needs real, serious change and that the responsibility lies with the country’s leaders.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Kingdom is following events in Lebanon closely. The Kingdom hopes the situation will stabilize as soon as possible and that Saudi Arabia stands with the people of Lebanon, the statement said.
According to their sources, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have requested to remove Bitar from the investigation into the Beirut port blast on Aug. 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands.
“The judiciary must find a formula that can restore the constitutional order and declare that the defendants, who are former ministers and deputies, should be prosecuted before the Court of Ministers and Presidents,” An official source from Amal Movement told Arab News.
Lawmaker Jalal Abdullah said the case is very sensitive and requires accurate follow-up. 
“Why did a demonstration, which was supposed to be peaceful, turn into an armed clash? The truth needs to come out,” he said. “The demarcation lines carry a bloody history in the memories of the Lebanese, and we do not want to reminisce these memories regardless of what happened.”
Abdullah told Arab News that “after what happened on Thursday, all kinds of immunity of the highest-ranking to the lowest-ranking security officials must be lifted to allow the truth to come out. Some are very concerned about this investigation and the role of Judge Bitar in his investigations. What is needed today is for everyone to abide by the process of the law.”
Mohanad Hage Ali, director of communications and a fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said the Tayouneh crime might be used politically to counter the port crime.
“I do not think that Hezbollah was not expecting blood by getting its supporters into this sensitive area,” he said. “Hezbollah is very concerned about the investigations and the possibility of being accused by Judge Bitar. This is only a possibility. But what we know so far at face value, is that Hezbollah is defending its allies, the Amal Movement and Marada Movement, whose ministers are defendants in the port explosion case.”
Ali expressed concern about Hezbollah’s behavior and feared assassination attempts in the near future. 
“Just like what happened after the assassination of (former premier) Rafic Hariri until the assassination of (author and activist) Luqman Slim,” he said.
The EU condemned the use of violence and expressed its condolences to the families of the victims, calling for “utmost restraint to avoid further senseless loss of life.”

Islamic Jihad threatens to go to war for prisoners in Israel

Palestinian members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror group, parade with a replica rocket on a truck during a march in Gaza in 2018. (AP/File Photo)
Palestinian members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror group, parade with a replica rocket on a truck during a march in Gaza in 2018. (AP/File Photo)
Updated 15 October 2021

Islamic Jihad threatens to go to war for prisoners in Israel

Palestinian members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror group, parade with a replica rocket on a truck during a march in Gaza in 2018. (AP/File Photo)
  • The movement, along with Hamas, said the alleged abuse of the 5,000 Palestinian prisoners will lead the ‘region toward a wide explosion’
  • Palestinian Prisoners Club said 250 of Islamic Jihad’s detainees in Israeli prisons started an open hunger strike to protest ‘atrocious measures’ against them

GAZA CITY: In a move that may create a new armed confrontation between the Palestinian factions and Israel, the Islamic Jihad movement has threatened to go to war in support of its prisoners in Israeli jails, while its military wing Al-Quds Brigades has announced a general mobilization.

Ziad Al-Nakhala, secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, said the movement would support the prisoners with everything it has, “even if it requires us to go to war for them, and no agreements or other considerations will prevent us from that.”

The Al-Quds Brigades responded to Al-Nakhala’s threats, with the announcement of a “general mobilization” and confirmation that it was “fully ready.”

In light of these developments, a meeting — whose venue was not specified — brought together a leading delegation headed by Al-Nakhala, and the other from Hamas, headed by Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of its political bureau.

The two sides stressed that Israel’s abuse of Palestinian prisoners inside its prisons “leads the region toward a wide explosion,” according to a statement issued by Hamas.

The statement said the two movements warned “the enemy government against testing the patience and resistance of our people,” stressing that “harming the prisoners is an insult to all our people, and the occupation must bear the consequences of this foolish policy that may lead the region toward a wide explosion.”

Qaddoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said on Wednesday that 250 of Islamic Jihad’s detainees in Israeli prisons have started an open hunger strike to protest the “atrocious measures” against them, noting that “after seven days, 100 of them will also stop taking water.”

Of the approximately 5,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons, about 400 are affiliated with Islamic Jihad.

According to the Prisoner's Club, the striking prisoners are calling for “the prison administration to stop the abusive measures that it had imposed doubly against them after Sept. 6, the date of the Freedom Tunnel operation,” a reference to the escape of six prisoners — five of them from Islamic Jihad — through a tunnel from Israel’s Gilboa Prison. They were captured within two weeks.

Hasan Lafi, an analyst and political writer affiliated with Islamic Jihad, said Al-Nakhala’s statements and the quick response of the military wing, “are not an option or a threat, but rather a decision to go to war in the event that the lives of our prisoners in the occupation’s prisons are affected.

“Al-Nakhla possesses a balance of action and the ability to carry out promises, and he has already done so when he issued a threat in the matter of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque and followed it with the launch of a missile.”

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar quoted Islamic Jihad sources as saying that it conveyed a message to Israel via Egypt that it is “going toward escalating steps, including firing rockets and igniting the border with the Gaza Strip, if the enemy does not reverse its measures against its prisoners.”

Complexities in the Palestinian arena are increasing. Hamas’ dialogue with Egyptian officials in Cairo over the course of six days on enhancing the Hamas-Israel truce and the prisoner-exchange deal did not result in a “real breakthrough.” The movement, however, received Egyptian promises to speed up the reconstruction process, without setting timetables.

Palestinian and Egyptian sources close to these meetings affirmed that they reject what they describe as “Israeli prevarication and betting on the time factor,” and categorically refuse to conclude agreements related to the truce and the exchange deal that does not meet its conditions.

Hamas demands the release of 48 prisoners, who were re-arrested by Israel following their release under the Gilad Shalit (Israeli soldier) prisoner-exchange deal, and also the release of the six who fled the Gilboa prison through a tunnel. 

Also on the demand list is the release of Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, Fouad Al-Shobaki, and a number of its military leaders serving life sentences.

Hamas is betting on its demands with four Israelis detained in Gaza, including two soldiers it captured during the third war on Gaza in 2014. It refuses to reveal their fate. The other two are an Arab and an Ethiopian who entered Gaza under mysterious circumstances.

But Cairo, according to the sources, told Hamas that it does not expect the Israeli government to respond to its conditions due to “what it suffers internally and its fear of collapse.” 

However, Egyptian officials promised to continue their efforts to reach an exchange deal, which Cairo sees as a basis for cementing the truce and preventing any deterioration that leads to military confrontation.

Zaher Jabarin, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that Israel offers lies and misinformation regarding the developments of the exchange deal. “We will not give up on our demands,” he said.

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles
Updated 15 October 2021

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles
BEIRUT: Lebanon on Friday mourned seven people killed in gunbattles in the streets of Beirut the previous day. The confrontation erupted over a long-running probe into last year’s massive port blast in the city and raised fears of the country being drawn into further violence.
Underlying the violence are Lebanon’s entrenched sectarian divides and growing pushback against the port investigation by the two main Shiite Muslim parties, the powerful Hezbollah militant group and its allied Amal Movement.
Schools, banks and government offices across Lebanon shut down for a day of mourning Friday, while funerals were held in several parts of the country.
At a cemetery in a southern suburb of Beirut, Hezbollah members in military uniforms paid their respects, standing before three coffins draped with the group’s yellow flag and covered with white roses. Senior Hezbollah officials were present. Hundreds of women, dressed in black robes, also attended the funeral.
At a separate funeral for an Amal fighter, also in southern Beirut, gunmen opened fire in the air for several minutes.
Thursday’s clashes saw gunmen battling each other for several hours with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in the streets of Beirut. It was the most violent confrontation in the city in years, echoing the nation’s darkest era of the 1975-90 civil war.
The firefight raised the specter of a return to sectarian violence in a country already struggling through one of the world’s worst economic crises of the past 150 years.
The violence broke out at a protest organized by Hezbollah and Amal which called for the removal of the lead judge investigating last year’s massive explosion at Beirut port. Officials from both parties have suggested the judge’s investigation is heading toward holding them responsible for the blast, which killed at least 215 people.
Many of the protesters on Thursday had been armed.
Ali Haidar, a 23-year-old Shiite who took part in the protest, said nearby residents first started throwing rocks, bottles and furniture, before snipers on rooftops opened fire on the protesters from two directions, leaving people stuck in the middle.
“Then everyone started defending their neighborhood,” he said.
It was not clear who fired the first shot, but the confrontation quickly devolved into heavy exchanges of gunfire along a former civil war front line separating predominantly Muslim and Christian areas of Beirut.
The two Shiite groups accused the Christian Lebanese Forces party of starting the shooting. The Lebanese Forces party denied the charges.
The death toll rose to seven of Friday, after an man succumbed to his injuries, the Health Ministry said. The dead included two fighters from Hezbollah and three from Amal.
Residents in the Tayouneh area of Beirut, where most of the fighting played out, swept glass from the streets in front of shops and apartment buildings. Soldiers in armored personnel carriers deployed on the streets, and barbed wire was erected at some street entrances. Several cars were still parked in the area, damaged in Thursday’s firefight.
Tayouneh has a huge roundabout that separates Christian and Muslim neighborhoods. Newly pockmarked buildings off the roundabout sat next to the ones scarred from the days of the civil war.
One of those killed in the neighborhood was identified as Mariam Farhat, a mother of five. She was shot by a sniper bullet as she sat near the door of the balcony of her second floor apartment, her family said Friday.
“We started screaming, she was taken on a stretcher but did not reach the hospital,” said Munira Hamdar, Farhat’s mother-in-law. She said Farhat’s youngest daughter does not know that her mother was killed, and has been staying with her maternal aunt since Thursday.
Farhat was laid to rest Friday, along with the two Hezbollah fighters, in the Hezbollah ceremony in south Beirut. Her casket also draped with a Hezbollah flag.
Tensions over the port blast have contributed to Lebanon’s many troubles, including a currency collapse, hyperinflation, soaring poverty and an energy crisis leading to extended electricity blackouts.
The probe centers on hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate that were improperly stored at a port warehouse that detonated on Aug. 4, 2020. The blast killed at least 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed parts of nearby neighborhoods. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and further devastated the country already beset with political divisions and financial woes.
Judge Tarek Bitar has charged and issued an arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former finance minister, who is a senior member of Amal and a close ally of Hezbollah. Bitar also charged three other former senior government officials with intentional killing and negligence that led to the blast.
Officials from both Shiite parties, as well as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, had attacked Bitar for days, accusing him of politicizing the investigation by charging and summoning some officials and not others.
A senior Hezbollah official, Mohammed Daamoush, said in a sermon during Friday prayers that the group will keep pushing to get Bitar removed and “return the port investigation on its right track.” He did not elaborate but analysts close to Hezbollah said they expect Shiite Cabinet ministers and some of their allies to boycott Cabinet meetings.
No Hezbollah officials have so far been charged in the 14-month investigation.
Bitar is the second judge to lead the complicated investigation. His predecessor was removed following legal challenges.