Judiciary to simulate welding operation that preceded Beirut blast

Judiciary to simulate welding operation that preceded Beirut blast
Diggers remove earth at the blast site next to the silos at the port of Beirut on August 16, 2020, in the aftermath of the massive explosion there that ravaged Lebanon's capital. (AFP)
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Updated 05 June 2021

Judiciary to simulate welding operation that preceded Beirut blast

Judiciary to simulate welding operation that preceded Beirut blast
  • Security, political officials, judges ‘will be summoned for questioning’

BEIRUT: Ten months have passed since the Beirut blast on Aug. 4 last year, and the Lebanese judiciary has still not established the cause of the massive explosion that killed 215 and injured 6,000.

Since then, the judiciary has arrested 19 people, including officers in the State and General Security departments, and has summoned dozens of people for questioning, including senior officials, such as caretaker Premier Hassan Diab, a former minister, two current lawmakers and the Director-General of State Security, Maj Gen. Tony Saliba.

Judge Tarek Bitar, who took over the case three months ago after his predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawan, was dismissed by the Lebanese court of cassation, told journalists recently that he has excluded the possibility that the explosion was caused by a “rocket attack.”

Bitar based his judgment on a report prepared by French forensic experts who did not find any remains of a missile in the port area.

Bitar said: “A missile attack is one of three possible theories; the second is that a welding mistake led to the fire that caused the explosion, and the third is that the fire was intentional.”

Bitar said he was 80 percent certain he could rule out the missile attack theory, and said that “work is continuing to determine which of the two remaining possibilities is the cause of the explosion.”

In his meeting with journalists, Judge Bitar appeared to be getting ready to announce the near completion of technical investigations and to move on to the summoning phase.

A judicial source told Arab News that “security and political officials, and even judges, will be summoned to be questioned in the coming weeks.”

Unlike his predecessor, Bitar will use judicial and constitutional means to prosecute officials who enjoy immunity.

On Dec. 10, Sawan summoned Diab and three former ministers over their negligence, but none of them showed up. Sawan had scheduled to question them as “defendants.”

On Feb. 18, Judge Sawan was dismissed from the case.

FASTFACT

More than 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in the port of Beirut since 2014 close to fireworks, exploded, destroying hundreds of houses and apartments and leaving a 40-meter-deep crater.

Judge Bitar has told journalists that he “might face some pressure in the coming weeks, but he will still say the truth” and that he will “submit his indictment to the judicial council before the end of the year, with physical evidence to prosecute those behind the explosion.”

More than 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in the port of Beirut since 2014 close to fireworks, exploded, destroying hundreds of houses and apartments and leaving a 40-meter-deep crater.

Bitar has focused in his investigation on discovering “the causes behind the explosion, those responsible for the ammonium shipment and its sources, and why it was kept in Beirut for seven years.”

Bitar, just like his predecessor, has stressed that “negligence” is one of the causes.

A simulation of the welding process that preceded the explosion is expected to take place in the next weeks, at the same place and with the same devices used to weld the gate of hangar 12.

The three welders who carried out this mission have been arrested, along with the owners of the company that is responsible for welding works at the port.

The judicial source also told Arab News that Bitar might summon judges who were aware of the dangers of the ammonium nitrate shipment in the port and did nothing about it.”

The families of the victims have staged protests in the port area on the fourth of every month since the explosion. This month, they threatened to storm the parliament if the defendants’ immunity was not waived.

Ibrahim Hteit, spokesperson for the families of the victims, said: “More than 300 days have passed since the massacre and officials have still not bothered even to present an apology, fearing to take any responsibility.”

He warned that the families “will not allow any company or investor to lay one stone or reconstruct the port until the truth comes out.”

Hteit and the families blamed the judiciary that, according to them, “obeys political orders.”

He said “waiving the immunity of lawmakers is crucial for the truth to come out, and parliamentary blocs are welcome to help us, if they want to. However, any bloc that abstains or refrains from voting in favor of this will be considered as a partner in crime and will become our enemy.”

“The families are preparing to stage several sit-ins outside the parliament,” he added.

Pictures of the blast victims are featured on the walls in the heart of Beirut and the road leading to the port. On Friday, a book titled “Alive Ashes” was published, containing a collection of testimonies by 203 families who lost loved ones in the explosion.

 


Biden, Erdogan upbeat about ties but disclose no breakthrough

Biden, Erdogan upbeat about ties but disclose no breakthrough
Updated 9 min 7 sec ago

Biden, Erdogan upbeat about ties but disclose no breakthrough

Biden, Erdogan upbeat about ties but disclose no breakthrough
BRUSSELS: US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sounded upbeat after their first face-to-face talks on Monday, although they did not announce major breakthroughs in the relationship between the two allies, at odds over Russian weapons, Syria, Libya and other issues.
“We had a positive and productive meeting, much of it one-on-one,” Biden told a news conference after their meeting in Brussels.
“Our teams are going to continue our discussions and I’m confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey and the United States,” he added.
Erdogan characterised his talks with Biden on the sidelines of a NATO summit as “productive and sincere.”
“We think that there are no issues between US and Turkey relationship that are unsolvable and that areas of cooperation for us are richer and larger than problems,” he said.
Despite their publicly optimistic tone, neither provided any details on how exactly they would mend the relationship or lay out steps that would help ease tensions between the NATO allies.
Turkey, with NATO’s second-largest military, has angered its allies in the Western military alliance by buying Russian surface-to-air missiles and intervening in wars in Syria and Libya. It is also in a standoff with Greece and Cyprus over territory in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As president, Biden has adopted a cooler tone than predecessor Donald Trump toward Erdogan. Biden quickly recognized the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide — a position that angers Turkey — and stepped up criticism of Turkey’s human rights record.
Washington has already removed Ankara from the F-35 fighter jet program and imposed sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
One area where Erdogan hoped to showcase a central Turkish role in NATO is Afghanistan, where Ankara has offered to guard and operate Kabul airport after US and NATO forces withdraw in coming weeks. NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey would play a key role but that no decision was made at the Monday summit.
At the start of the main leaders’ session at NATO, Biden spoke to Erdogan at length in a small group before they took their seats.
Later in the day, the two leaders and their top aides sat mostly silently on opposite sides of a conference table, ignoring questions shouted to them by journalists briefly invited into the room.
Erdogan also met French President Emmanuel Macron. Ankara and Paris have been at odds over Syria, Libya and Turkish criticism of the fight against what Macron calls Islamist separatism, among other issues.
“President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference afterwards.

COVID-19 vaccines distributed at makeshift camp in Syria's Idlib

COVID-19 vaccines distributed at makeshift camp in Syria's Idlib
Updated 26 min 31 sec ago

COVID-19 vaccines distributed at makeshift camp in Syria's Idlib

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Bahrain and UAE congratulate newly formed Israeli government

Bahrain and UAE congratulate newly formed Israeli government
Updated 19 min 31 sec ago

Bahrain and UAE congratulate newly formed Israeli government

Bahrain and UAE congratulate newly formed Israeli government
  • Bahrain's crown prince sent a congratulatory telegraph to new Israeli Prime Minister
  • UAE’s foreign minister congratulated Israeli foreign minister on his new position

CAIRO: Bahrain’s crown prince sent a congratulatory telegraph to new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The crown prince expressed his sincere wishes to the formed government for success in its tasks “in a way that strengthen the pillars of development, stability, and peace in the region and the world,” Bahrain state news agency (BNA) said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed discussed in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart “the bilateral cooperation between the two countries in addition to the Abraham Accords,” the minister’s office tweeted on Monday.
Bin Zayed congratulated the Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, on his new position and wished him success, the tweet said.


Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel

Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel
Updated 39 min 49 sec ago

Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel

Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel

Palestinian children fly kites on a beach of Gaza City carrying the portraits of the 66 children killed in the Palestinian enclave by Israeli airstrikes during the last conflict between the Jewish state and Hamas.


Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
Updated 14 June 2021

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
  • Video showing brawl between Bassil’s entourage & young woman goes viral on social media, triggers waves of criticism
  • Bassil’s media office denied beating incident and said ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’

BEIRUT: A video of a brawl between a Lebanese woman and Head of Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil’s bodyguards after she publicly told him ‘shame on you’ went viral on Sunday.

The woman was having lunch with friends in a newly-opened restaurant at Al Batroun, the birthplace of Bassil, Lebanese President’s son-in-law and a strong political ally of Iran-backed party Hezbollah, when the altercation happened.

Once the woman, identified by media as Yasmine Al-Masri, saw Bassil at the restaurant she yelled at him saying the Arabic for “shame on you.”

She is believed to have been provoked by his audacity showing up in public as if he is not one of the major instigators and those responsible for the country’s political deadlock, economic collapse and corruption.

It was reported in different media outlets that Bassil’s entourage instantly rushed toward Al-Masri, whacked her brutally and pinned her down to the floor. Meanwhile as the bodyguards were violently silencing and preventing her from shouting, Bassil made his way hurriedly to his car.

Arab News contacted the restaurant where the incident happened.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

“The incident happened around lunchtime. She yelled at lawmaker Bassil and told him what means ‘shame on you’ for what you’ve been doing to the people… she reacted like any other independent citizen would do as to how dare he provocatively show his face in public,” a waiter told Arab News. He declined to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue and fear of losing his job.

In the video that Al-Masri recorded using her mobile phone, the footage showed the entourage escorting Bassil to his waiting car while her voice could be heard heatedly arguing with one of the bodyguards who walked toward her and battered her hand. The video footage was clearly flipped upside down after Al-Masri was attacked by the bodyguard and her phone got broken.

Revealing what happened, Al-Masri told MTV channel she yelled at Bassil once he entered the restaurant by telling him ‘tfeh 3lek’ [shame on you] maintaining that it is not a curse. “That is the least I could tell him. His bodyguard told me to keep my mouth shut and assaulted me. I stood up after I fell down due to the assault, grabbed my phone and followed the entourage wanting to film what they did,” she told the MTV stressing that her friend called others for help because she was brutally attacked.

Towards Sunday afternoon the video showing the incident snowballed on social media especially Twitter and Instagram.

Bassil’s media office claimed that he and his family were about to ride their car when a woman used foul language against him.

His entourage responded ‘naturally, peacefully and modernly’ to stop her from cursing, according to the media statement that confirmed the woman wasn’t beaten.

Bassil told Free Patriotic Movement supporters and members that ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’ and to respond accordingly.

In response to that, popular TV host Ghada Eid tweeted saying ‘the era of leaving corruption unfought is over’.

Following the incident, a hashtag with Al-Masri’s phrase [tfeh 3lek] became trending in Lebanon.

A twitter user called Hassan said ‘This is the best trending topic in Lebanon this year so far’

Mariana tweeted ‘By showing violent behavior, bullies try to hide their own weakness.’

Another used tweeted about Bassil saying ‘Small Man with a Giant Ego’.

Samer Al Khoury tweeted ‘so lovely how you [Bassil] always trend when it’s an insult or corruption what a disgrace you are’.

International Lebanese artist Elissa said on twitter ‘every hand that beats a woman should be broken’.