'Hezbollah know exactly what was at the port'

Former Lebanese justice minister calls Hezbollah a ‘murderous’ terror group

Amid fallout of Beirut blast, Ashraf Rifi urges protection for anyone who will lead inquiry, since ‘Hezbollah might kill any judge who concludes it is responsible’

Resigned Lebanese Justice Minister, Ashraf Rifi, speaks during a press conference at his house in Beirut, Lebanon, September 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Resigned Lebanese Justice Minister, Ashraf Rifi, speaks during a press conference at his house in Beirut, Lebanon, September 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Amid the political turmoil in Lebanon and widespread calls for a commission of inquiry into the government’s role in the blast that devastated Beirut last week, the country’s former justice minister has called for the person in charge of the inquiry to get additional protection due to the threat of being targeted by Hezbollah.

Ashraf Rifi, who is also the former director-general of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) police service, also called the Iran-backed movement a terror group and said it routinely murders its rivals, in an interview with the Al-Arabiya network aired Friday.

“We should wait for the investigation [into the Beirut blast],” said Rifi, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

“We demand a commission of inquiry that will be able to protect the investigating officer and the judges,” he added. “Lebanese society succumbs to the will of Hezbollah. Hezbollah might kill any judge who concludes Hezbollah is responsible. Hezbollah might kill any officer and their family.

“The investigator — whether it is an officer of the security forces or a judge — must be provided with protection and so should their family.”

Rifi, who served as justice minister from 2014 to 2016, resigned from that post in protest of Hezbollah’s influence over the country’s politics. Before that, he headed the ISF from 2005 to 2013.

“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. It is a murderous, criminal organization that kills its rivals,” Rifi said, giving as examples former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, and two of Hariri’s associates, Wissam Eid and Wissan al-Hassan, who were killed in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

The August 4 blast in Beirut left 220 dead, 7,000 injured and an estimated 300,000 homeless. It was among the most powerful non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, damaging buildings for miles around, and leaving a crater in the heart of Beirut’s port.

Lebanon was already facing a dire economic emergency brought on by longstanding corruption, political dysfunction and the coronavirus pandemic. The destruction of the grain silos at the port reportedly left the country facing a food shortage as well.

The entire Lebanese cabinet resigned Monday over the public criticism.

A partial aerial view, on August 7, 2020, of the port of Beirut and the crater caused by the colossal explosion three days earlier of a huge pile of ammonium nitrate that had languished for years in a port warehouse, left scores of people dead or injured and caused devastation in the Lebanese capital. (AFP)

Days earlier, a Lebanese blogger’s criticism of Hezbollah in the wake of the explosion went viral.

Dima Sadek, until last year an anchor on a popular political talk show before being let go for criticizing Hezbollah, remains a popular voice on Lebanese social media.

Lebanese blogger and journalist Dima Sadek. (video screenshot)

On Friday, she took to Twitter, where she has over 621,000 followers, with a video lashing Hezbollah as worse for Lebanon than the enemy across the border.

The video addressed the terror group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, after his speech denying claims that Hezbollah was responsible for the port explosion.

“I want to tell you one thing: if you can answer this question for the Lebanese people, then I swear, we will all bow down to you — I will bow down to you if you can answer this question,” she said in the clip. “What has Israel done against us that’s worse than you? Answer me.”

Sadek’s video was viewed more than 715,000 times by Monday.

The video led to media interviews. One interview, published Monday in the Italian daily La Repubblica, was headlined, “Israel is an enemy, but Hezbollah has done worse.”

In the interview Sadek insisted, “It’s not an exaggeration to say that Hezbollah is worse for Lebanon than Israel. My problem with Israel isn’t political, but moral. I don’t agree with its treatment of the Palestinians.”

She accused Nasrallah of flatly lying about Hezbollah’s culpability for the blast. “Hezbollah controls everything in this country. They know exactly what was at the port.”

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