Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe

Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe
Activists and relatives of victims of the Beirut port blast lift placards as they demonstrate on Sep. 29, 2021 outside the Beirut's Justice Palace, to protest the suspension of the probe into the Aug. 4, 2020 port explosion. (AFP)
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Updated 29 September 2021

Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe

Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe
  • Lawmaker wants judge’s dismissal from case

BEIRUT: Relatives of people killed in last year’s Beirut port explosion protested on Wednesday against the suspension of a probe into the tragedy.

The blast killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and devastated the capital.

Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation, had to suspend his work on Monday after what the families and human rights groups said was another blatant case of political obstruction.

Carrying portraits of their loved ones and placards calling for justice, the protesters voiced their support for Bitar, whose summons targeting senior officials have made him a target for threats and criticism.

MP Nohad Machnouk, who is a former interior minister, has demanded Bitar’s dismissal from the case.

He filed an appeal against the judge last week. Machnouk is one of the top officials suspected of negligence, a charge brought by Bitar.

Bitar suspended his investigation and all procedures related to the case, pending a decision by the Beirut Appeals Court to accept or reject the appeal filed by Machnouk.

The sobbing protesters demanded to know who killed their children. 

One mother told Arab News: “I hope that they will not turn us into criminals who will pursue the perpetrators. We are not outlaws. We want the truth from the judiciary, so let Judge Bitar do his work because we trust him. Do not drive us toward taking matters into our own hands.”

A group of lawyers entered the Palace of Justice and hung a giant banner from a balcony overlooking the lobby. 

It featured pictures of the blast victims and the words: “Don't kill them twice.” 

Lawyers chanted slogans asking for a just verdict and demanded the Beirut Court of Appeals reject Machnouk’s complaint.

Other banner slogans read: “Last chance for justice in the country,” “Lebanon is a hostage and besieged,” and “We will not forget.” 

Others were more political in nature, such as “Iran out” and “Yes to neutrality and yes to an international conference for Lebanon.”

Protesters were surrounded by security forces, but they were joined by activists from civil society, human rights, social and humanitarian organizations, including doctors, engineers and university students.

They condemned “abnormal practices, pressures and blatant threats by the parties in power.”

They demanded “international protection" for Lebanon because it was “besieged by the authority and corrupt politicians who destroyed and stole from Lebanon and are still in power and are now protecting each other.”

They said there was “no hope for saving Lebanon from corruption, crime and theft in light of this ruling system and the Lebanese people are slipping from bad to worse.”

There is a Thursday midday deadline for Bitar to express his opinion on Machnouk’s case and report it to the court.

President Michel Aoun tweeted that any conviction or acquittal was determined by the final court ruling, not by the investigation.

“Investigation is not the judiciary,” he said. “If the investigation erred, there are three phases for correction: Beginning, appeal and cassation. Hence, investigations must continue so that the guilty are convicted, and the innocent are acquitted.”

A statement from the families was read out in front of the Palace of Justice. It criticized Hezbollah’s threat to Bitar.

“This case brought us together and the main suspect is the one who threatens the judge inside the Palace of Justice,” it said.

On Wednesday, the French Foreign Ministry expressed its regret about the probe’s suspension. 

“The Lebanese people have the right to know the truth regarding the Beirut Port explosion and the Lebanese judiciary must work with complete transparency,” it said.

The UN Security Council has stressed the necessity for Lebanese authorities to conduct “a prompt, independent, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the explosion that shook the port in August 2020.”


Jordan reports its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases to date as fourth wave rages

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 59 min 53 sec ago

Jordan reports its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases to date as fourth wave rages

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • An additional 11,478 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total in the country since the pandemic began to 1,152,526
  • Nearly 23 percent of tests returned a positive result, 18 percent above the 5 percent rate considered ‘safe’ by authorities

AMMAN: Jordan on Monday reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in the country since the pandemic began, as the kingdom battles to contain a surging fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

Authorities said an additional 11,478 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total to 1,152,526, and another 15 people have died of conditions related to the disease. The death toll now stands at 13,088.

Nearly 23 percent of PCR tests returned a positive result, 18 percent above the 5 percent rate considered “safe” by the government.

A further 158 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital, while 107 have recovered and been discharged. A total of 714 people are currently receiving hospital treatment for the disease.

The government said occupancy rates of isolation beds by COVID-19 patients in the country’s northern, central and southern regions stand at 10 percent, 19 percent and 8 percent respectively.

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots.


Algerian president in Egypt on official visit

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit
Updated 25 min 39 sec ago

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit
  • Abdelmadjid Tebboune is on a two-day state visit
  • Egypt is the third Arab country that Tebboune has visited since he took office in December 2019

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received on Monday evening his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune at Cairo International Airport.

Tebboune is on a two-day state visit, and is expected to discuss with El-Sisi Arab and African security issues, including the crisis in neighboring Libya.

The two presidents previously met in January 2020 on the sidelines of the Berlin conference on the Libyan crisis.

Egypt is the third Arab country that Tebboune has visited since he took office in December 2019, after Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

El-Sisi received a written message from Tebboune last week after receiving Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra in Cairo.

El-Sisi and Lamamra discussed bilateral relations and Arab issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Libyan crisis.


Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM
Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM
  • Sameh Shoukry: Egypt is always ready to resume negotiations with Ethiopia if there is a political will to reach an agreement
  • Egypt and Sudan reject Ethiopia’s insistence on filling the dam before reaching a binding agreement

CAIRO: Cairo is not to blame for the failure of negotiations over the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has said.

“Egypt is always ready to resume negotiations with Ethiopia if there is a political will to reach an agreement,” he added.

“Egypt is always keen to reach consensus between the three countries — Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia — and to reach a binding legal agreement in accordance with the rules of international law and international practices, in a manner that meets the needs of all parties, which is Ethiopia’s right to development, and the right of Egypt and Sudan to their share of the Nile waters.”

Negotiations between the three countries failed in April 2021 and have not resumed since. Egypt and Sudan reject Ethiopia’s insistence on filling the dam before reaching a binding agreement.


Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally
Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

CAIRO: Egypt approved Merck & Co’s COVID-19 pill Molnupiravir for emergency use, the country’s drug authority said on Monday, adding that the pill would be locally produced.
The drug will initially be manufactured by five local companies, to be joined later by several other firms, the Egyptian Drug Authority said in a statement.


Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group
Updated 24 January 2022

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group
  • The league affirmed its support for “the UAE’s right to self-defense and to respond to aggression under international law”
  • The league also welcomed the UN Security Council’s “unified position” in condemning the Houthi attacks

CAIRO: The Arab League has urged the international community to classify Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist organization after last week’s missile and drone attacks on the UAE.

The call followed an emergency meeting of the Arab League on Sunday to discuss the “brutal and vicious terrorist attack on civilians and civilian targets.”

It said the attacks “constitute a violation of international law and international humanitarian law, and a real threat to vital civilian facilities, energy supplies and the stability of the global economy.

“They also constitute a threat to regional peace and security, undermine Arab national security, harm international peace and security, and pose a threat to international commercial shipping lines.”

The meeting welcomed the solidarity of countries, as well as regional and international organizations, with the UAE.

The Arab League also welcomed the UN Security Council’s “unified position” in condemning the Houthi attacks.

The meeting affirmed the league’s support for “the UAE’s right to self-defense and to respond to aggression under international law.”

It stressed “the need for the international community to stand united in the face of this terrorist act that threatens regional and international peace and stability, and to take immediate and decisive measures to deter the Houthi militias, in order to stop their repeated criminal acts in Yemen and the region.”