08/05/2022, 21.23
LEBANON
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Anger and resentment on the second anniversary of the Port of Beirut disaster

by Fady Noun

Two religious ceremonies are held, one by the Greek Orthodox metropolitan at Geitaoui hospital, and the other by the Maronite patriarch at St George’s cathedral. Thousands of Lebanese marched towards the site of the disaster. Card al-Rahi decries attempts to hold back the investigations, and does not rule out calling again for international inquiry.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – For Lebanon, yesterday was a day of anger and bitterness, marking the second anniversary of the explosion at the Port of Beirut (4 August 2020).

As if fate wanted to show its scorn one more time, another section of the grain silos at the port collapsed, not far from the warehouse that held the hundreds of bags of enriched ammonium nitrate that blew up on that fateful day.

Yesterday, thousands of angry Lebanese from all walks of life marched towards the Port of Beirut.

Two religious services were held to remember the victims, one by the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Beirut, Elias Audeh, at the Geitaoui Hospital, devastated by the explosion, and the other by the Maronite Patriarch, Bechara al-Rahi.

The latter celebrated the Liturgy of the Martyrs at the commemoration Mass at St George's Cathedral in downtown Beirut in the presence of the relatives and friends of those who perished in the explosion. They were clad in the black of mourning, many holding tightly pictures of their loved ones, their faces an open book of sorrow and weariness.

The liturgy was infused with a moving sincerity, especially when the prayer intentions were read by the victims’ relatives, pleas raised not only for the families who lost a loved one, but also all those who lost their home or job, and those among them who were permanently disabled, as well as for the Church and the leaders of a helpless and shattered Lebanon.

For the relatives of the 224 dead and 150 seriously wounded and disabled (so far), the head of the Maronite Church did not just deliver “another homily” after the reading of the Gospel, but offered “a plea of great steadfastness that summed up the meaning of the day, focused above all on the ongoing denial of justice in this national tragedy.”

“Two crimes”

"Today we are in the presence of two crimes," Patriarch al-Rahi said, "that of the explosion at the port, which is the crime of the century, and that of the investigation paralysis, which is of equal gravity.”

The patriarch went on to decry all the calls for the magistrates involved in the inquiry to be removed as well as the accusations of “serious misconduct” made by various ministers summoned by the investigating judge, Tarek Bitar, against the latter, in order to block the legal action.

“Such paralysis is a deliberate and premeditated act to sow discord among the victims," he noted. This is a reference to a group of victims of the explosion led by Ibrahim Hoteit, who, overnight, called for Judge Tarek Bitar to be dismissed from the investigation in response to a request made by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah a few days earlier.

“Without accusing anyone but exonerating no one," the patriarch urged that the investigation start up again after stalling for almost a year. He decried in particular those who "caused the tragedy, those who sinned through negligence or indecision, those who were silent, those who covered up the facts, those who showed cowardice, and finally those who hinder the judicial process.”

From the start, the patriarch demanded an international inquiry, and this for good reasons, since the catastrophe could be defined as a "crime against humanity" if the investigation shows that it was "premeditated".

"The obstacles erected against the investigation, if they stick, could justify the renewal of this request," he added.

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