A gunshot explodes near a Hezbollah-led protest demanding the removal of a judge from the Beirut investigation.
Beirut, Lebanon – One person has been killed and several others injured in a shooting near the Hezbollah-led protest in Beirut.
Hundreds of black-clad Hezbollah supporters and supporters gathered at Beirut Justice Palace on Thursday demanding that Judge Tarek Bitar be removed from the explosive investigation in Beirut Port, accusing him of being a racist and “American slave”.
Gunshots were heard building up on the roof near Tayyoune, scattering the angry audience.
The Lebanese army intervened, arresting one of the shooters. The identity and alliance of the shooters is not well known.
At least one person has been killed and eight others injured, Sahel General Hospital in Beirut told Al Jazeera.
The protest comes two days after Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah criticized Bitar. Nasrallah criticized Bitar for seeking a “political uprising” during his investigation.
Mehieddine Lazkani, 29, whose father died in the crash, said he was disappointed that the protesters had met Bitar, not the country’s rulers, as Lebanon’s economy continued to grow.
“It’s good in every sense,” Lazkani told Al Jazeera. “The Lebanese pound is at 21,000 to the dollar, there is no electricity or medicine, but they still think they should be protesting instead of Judge Bitar?”
The Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its value in two years, while the electricity crisis has disrupted public life. About three quarters of the population live in poverty, according to the UN. Many Lebanese people are said to be exacerbating the problem because of corruption and the widespread use of Lebanese political parties and banks.
Bitar tried for several months to follow former ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Ghazi Zeiter, Nouhad Machnouk, Youssef Finianos, and former Prime Minister Hasan Diab. Khalil and Zeiter belong to the Amal Movement, a Shia party led by Speaker Nabih Berri and a close ally of Hezbollah.
The judge also ordered the summons of General Security Major-General Abbas Ibrahim and Chief of State Security Major-General Tony Saliba. However, the interior ministry and the Land Security Council did not grant him permission to do so.
Khalil and Zeiter filed a complaint Tuesday, forcing Bitar to suspend the investigation after granting Khalil’s arrest. The European Union and the United States State Department have demanded that the study be resumed without hindrance.
More than 200 people were killed and more than 6,500 were injured in an explosion at the Beirut port on August 4, 2020, when a large reservoir of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored safely for years, exploded.
The explosion was the largest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded, as well as the most devastating event in Lebanon’s grim history. The area around the capital was destroyed.
No officials have been convicted.
President Michel Aoun, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati continue to support the Bitar Judge. Mikati said Lebanon could not tolerate the removal of the second judge in the investigation.
However, Hezbollah ministers, Amal, and other allies are said to have pressured the prime minister to take action against Bitar.