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Nasrallah: Beirut port blast judge’s subpoena of caretaker PM is ‘unacceptable’

Hezbollah chief claims summons to Hassan Diab proves probe into explosion is ‘based on targeting and politicization’

In this photo from October 24, 2015, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses a crowd during the holy day of Ashoura, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
In this photo from October 24, 2015, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses a crowd during the holy day of Ashoura, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group said on Friday that a judge’s move to subpoena the caretaker prime minister over the Beirut port blast was “unacceptable” and urged the judiciary to intervene.

A huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate exploded at the port on August 4 last year, destroying swaths of the city and killing at least 214 people.

It later emerged that officials had known the highly volatile fertilizer had been stored there for years, but a probe into the country’s worst peace-time disaster has so far failed to hold anyone to account.

Judge Tareq Bitar, the lead investigator, on Thursday ordered the security forces to bring in outgoing prime minister Hassan Diab for questioning on September 20, after he failed to respond to a summons to appear before him on the same day.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said the subpoena further proved the probe was “based on… targeting and politicization.

“What he did was to… belittle the prime minister. This is unacceptable,” said the head of the Iran-backed Shiite group. “We call on the judicial authorities in Lebanon to intervene and take action according to… the Lebanese constitution and Lebanese law.”

Then-Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab, speaks during a press conference, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, on January 21, 2020. (AP/ Bilal Hussein, File)

In February, Bitar’s predecessor was removed by a court after he charged Diab and three former ministers with “negligence and causing death to hundreds” in the explosion, a move widely condemned by the political class.

Smoke rises after an explosion the day before at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Since inheriting the case, Bitar has summoned four former ministers — three of whom are lawmakers — but parliament has refused to lift their immunity so that they can be questioned.

The outgoing interior minister has also refused to allow the questioning of top intelligence chief Abbas Ibrahim.

Human Rights Watch earlier this month accused Lebanese authorities of criminal negligence over the blast.

Diab’s government resigned in the wake of the port explosion, but has remained in a caretaker capacity, as politicians have been unable to agree on a new cabinet line-up.

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