12/14/2020, 13.16
LEBANON
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Card Al-Rahi: the Beirut explosion is being manipulated by sectarian interests

In his Sunday homily, the Maronite patriarch attacked the “political and sectarian” turn taken by the investigation into the port explosion. He warned that “the time of responsibility has come” to avert a “national schism”. Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers have been indicted.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The investigation into the double explosion at the port of Beirut on 4 August took a “political and sectarian” turn after former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers were indicted.

In a stinging critique in his homily yesterday,  Maronite Patriarch Card Beshara al-Rahi said that to shed light on the real causes of the tragedy, it is essential that Lebanon’s political leaders and government institutions “not interfere” in the work of the prosecution.

The “time of responsibility has come” and “nobody has the right to waste time and oppress the citizens,” said the cardinal. “We hope that the latest political, sectarian and legal reactions do not block the investigation into the port explosion that devastated half the capital, killing 200 people and injuring 5,000, as well as leaving thousands of people homeless and displaced.”

For the Patriarch, just as a “national schism” along “confessional” lines has no justification, the various religious, political and government offices have no justification in being an obstacle to “the natural course of justice” in events of such gravity.

On 4 August some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded after lying in storage since 2014 in Hangar 12 of the Port of Beirut without any particular safety measures, this despite repeated warnings about the danger they posed to the capital and its residents.

Four months after the incident, judicial investigator Fadi Sawan issued the first indictments against former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers – Ali Hassan Khalil (Finance) and Youssef Fenianos and Ghazi Zaeiter (Public Works), sparking negative reactions against the judge and the judiciary.

For some the investigation has taken “political and sectarian” turn. Former Prime Ministers Saad Hariri, Tammam Salam, Fouad Siniora, Nagib Mikati and the Grand Mufti of Lebanon Abdellatif Deriane see the whole process as an attack against the Prime Minister’s Office, which is reserved to a Sunni under the 1943 constitution.

Some are accusing the President’s Office, which is reserved to a Christian, of directing the prosecution towards indicting, a claim denied in an official statement over the week-end.

“We do not cover for anyone nor defend anyone,” said the cardinal. “We do not get involved in judicial investigations. What matters to us are people’s rights,” he added.

Addressing directly political leaders, he said to them: "Keep your hands off the justice system”. Let it “purify itself and keep in place only honourable and courageous judges". What is needed is “a government of national salvation to help the country rebuild.”

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