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Amid Hezbollah criticism, Beirut investigator renews summonses of ex-ministers

The judge leading Lebanon’s probe into last year’s massive port explosion has renewed his summonses of two former ministers for questioning, a judicial official says.

The decision by Judge Tarek Bitar comes despite intense criticism from the country’s powerful Hezbollah group of the direction of the long-running investigation.

A supporter of Hezbollah and the Amal movement carries a portrait of Judge Tarek Bitar, the Beirut blast lead investigator, near the Justice Palace in the capital Beirut, on October 14, 2021, during a gathering to demand his dismissal. (Joseph Eid/AFP)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has accused Bitar of politicizing the probe and singling out some officials and not others. He has called on the government to remove Bitar.

Nasrallah’s accusations marked a major escalation in rhetoric targeting Bitar and were followed by protests in the capital Beirut last week by supporters of Hezbollah and its ally Amal against the judge.

The protests descended into violence unseen in Lebanon in years: Seven people were killed during five hours of clashes between supporters of the two Shi’ite groups and gunmen accused of being allied with Lebanon’s right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces.

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