On the one year anniversary of the event in August this year, Hezbollah’s leader called the investigation ‘politicised’.
Hezbollah security and liaison service head Wafiq Safa has reportedly threatened Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the August 2020 Beirut port blast. The explosion devastated the Lebanese capital killing at least 218 people, wounding about 7,000 and causing billions of dollars in damage.
According to Lebanese news reports, Hezbollah’s Wafiq Safa visited Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oweidat and the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Suhail Abboud.
Although the reason for the visit was unknown, Safa reportedly said: “Bitar’s performance has raised the ire (of Hezbollah) and we will keep a close eye on his work until the end, and should he drift off the course, we will remove him from his position.”
“It is fine, I do not care how they will remove me,” Bitar said in response to the threat, according to Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reporter Edmond Sassine.
Bitar confirmed what was circulated in the Lebanese media about the alleged threat.
Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi was accused of being aware of the reported threat to Bitar, however, he denied it by saying that “security forces are doing their duty and the judge is doing his duty."
The reports sparked outrage among the families of the victims and they told Lebanese media that they would stand around Bitar’s house to guard him.
Bitar has issued several arrest warrants in recent weeks during the investigation, and questioned some former ministers and current MPs including Ali Hassan Khalil, Ghazi Zeaiter, and Nohad Al-Machnouk about their knowledge of the explosion.
Current parliamentarians were summoned for interrogations on September 30 and October 1 by the judge.
Recently, Bitar issued an arrest warrant in absentia against the former Minister of Public Works and Transport, Youssef Fenianos, “after his refusal to appear before him for interrogation, despite being duly informed of the date of the hearing.”
Sami Gemayel, the head of Lebabon’s Kataeb Party, holds Hezbollah responsible for obstructing the investigation and stands against the threats.
Hezbollah has been accused of storing ammonium nitrate in the Beirut Port which caused one of the world's largest non-nuclear explosions last year.
Hezbollah’s Safa was also sanctioned by the US in 2019 for using Lebanese ports to smuggle weapons and illegal drugs on behalf of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah said on the one year anniversary of the Beirut Port blast that the investigator of the blast was politically biased.
"I am formally telling the family of the martyrs that this judicial investigator is playing politics, this is a politicized investigation," Nasrallah said.