Lebanon’s judicial investigation of the Beirut port explosion started with political wrangling over the naming of a lead investigator, military threats to jail leakers and doubts over whether a panel appointed along sectarian lines could be fully impartial.
So for many Lebanese, their greatest hope for credible answers about the blast that wrecked much of their capital may lie with outsiders. Families of the dead and survivors on Friday called on the U.N. Security Council for an international investigation. Others pin their hopes on the French forensic police who have joined the probe and FBI investigators are expected to take part. Two French investigating magistrates have been assigned to the case, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Friday.
We are not lawyers or politicians, we are families and people, our appeal today is to the people of the international community,” said Paul Najjar, a survivor of the explosion. “Is it acceptable today that people would find their homes shattered, their families killed, their hopes and their dreams killed as well, with no justice, in all impunity?”
A Lebanese prosecutor on Friday postponed the questioning of former and current, caretaker finance and public works ministers, pending a letter from the newly appointed investigator assigned to the case that says he lacked the authority to question ministers.
French teams have pressed ahead at their work, sending divers into the underwater crater, taking explosives samples and preparing recommendations for both the French and Lebanese magistrates.
Among the French judicial police on the case are men and women who responded after the 2004 tsunami in Japan, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the November 2015 and Bastille Day 2016 terror attacks in France.
The Beirut explosion lies at the crossroads of a disastrous accident and a crime scene. It still was not known what sparked the fire that ignited nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that were stored for years in Beirut’s port next to densely populated residential areas.