Wahhab to Al Mayadeen: Judge Tarek Bitar a tool to trigger civil war
The head of the Arab Tawheed party accuses Judge Tarek Bitar of carrying out a coup against the law and the constitution.
The head of the Arab Tawheed party, Wiam Wahhab, confirmed on Wednesday that with his acts, Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into Beirut's deadly 2020 port blast, could trigger another Lebanese civil war, accusing him of violating the law and the constitution, saying, "It is as if someone installed him as a de facto ruler over Lebanon."
During an interview for Al Mayadeen, Wahhab said that Bitar did not reveal anything about the port blast, calling him "a liar and evasive" and describing him as a tool to detonate a civil war.
"In what capacity does Tarek Bitar allow himself to be the cause of a civil war? In what capacity does he allow himself to charge public prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat?" Wahhab said, reminding the public that the judge had received French judges and saying, "we all heard the comments of US officials, so he [Judge Bitar] took advantage of the matter and acted on the spot."
Wahhab accused Bitar of being affiliated with foreign embassies, wondering why the judge acted backward, arresting people before any conviction.
The head of the Arab Tawheed party called on everyone in power to support Oueidat, accusing Bitar of carrying out a coup against the law and the constitution.
Wahhab stressed the need for the Lebanese state to prosecute the governor of the Central Bank and not receive judges from abroad or anyone else, stressing that Lebanon's Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat restored balance instead of surrendering to reality.
Elsewhere, Wahhab warned that the Europeans must "understand the repercussions of the deterioration of the security situation in Lebanon, especially since there are about two million displaced Syrians."
The Lebanese Supreme Judicial Council will hold a session on Thursday to decide on Bitar's case.
Read more: Beirut Blast Anniversary: The Dust has yet to Settle
Beirut Blast judge, top prosecutor engage in legal battle: Lebanon
Earlier, Bitar refused to step down from the probe, rejecting charges Oueidat filed against him in the charged case.
Bitar dropped a surprise earlier this week charging several powerful figures -- including prosecutor general Oueidat -- over the blast and reviving a probe that was suspended for over a year amid intense political and legal pushback.
One of history's biggest non-nuclear explosions, the August 4, 2020 blast, destroyed much of Beirut port and surrounding areas, killing more than 215 people and injuring over 6,500.
Oueidat charged Bitar in order to "prevent sedition"
Oueidat on Tuesday sent a letter to Bitar saying his probe remained suspended and on Wednesday issued a decision, saying the judge did not have the authority to resume his investigation.
The prosecution service rejected the resumption of the probe. "We were only informed of Bitar's decision through the media," Oueidat told AFP, adding that "since he considers that the general prosecution doesn't exist, we will also act like he doesn't exist."
On Wednesday, Oueidat told AFP that, in order to "prevent sedition", he had "charged investigative judge Tarek Bitar and banned him from travel for rebelling against the judiciary and usurping power."
Bitar says he will not step down
On his part, Bitar said he is still "the investigative judge and I will not step down from this case."
Oueidat "cannot charge a judge who has already charged him," he told AFP, adding that the chief prosecutor "has no authority to charge me."
He told Reuters that he would "continue until I issue an indictment" and said that Oueidat "had no right" to file the charge or release detainees.
A judicial official said Oueidat, who has rejected the charges, had summoned Bitar for Thursday morning but that the investigating judge would "not appear for questioning."
A US State Department spokesperson said Tuesday that "we support and urge Lebanese authorities to complete a swift and transparent investigation into the horrific explosion at the Port of Beirut."
Authorities said the mega-explosion was caused by a fire in a portside warehouse where a vast stockpile of the industrial chemical ammonium nitrate had been haphazardly stored for years.
Read more: Families of Beirut Blast Victims Spokesman Urges Bitar to Step Down
Oueidat releases all those detained over the explosion
Bitar resumed work on the investigation after a 13-month hiatus, charging eight top officials over the blast -- including Oueidat, the head of General Security Abbas Ibrahim, and State Security agency chief Tony Saliba.
Oueidat, who has rejected the charges, on Wednesday ordered the "release of all those detained over the Beirut port explosion case, without exception" and banned them from travel, according to a judicial document seen by AFP.
Those ordered released include a dual American-Lebanese citizen, as well as the port chief and the head of customs Badri Daher.
Bitar has planned to question 14 suspects next month, including five officials whom he had indicted earlier -- among them ex-prime minister Hassan Diab and former ministers.
Bitar's return to investigations after long pause raises questions
In the same context, Lebanese journalist Johnny Mounayyar told Al Mayadeen that the course of the new investigations into the port explosion indicates a judicial struggle for the first time in the history of Lebanon, noting that Bitar's return to the investigations after a long pause raises questions, as well as his meeting with a French delegation in his home, not his office.
Mounayyar said, "Some indications signal that the port's investigation is heading toward the path of internationalization," suggesting that "we will witness American and European sanctions against political and judicial figures if Bitar's investigation is obstructed."
Read more: “Truth Uncovered": Al Mayadeen's Exclusive Documentary on Beirut Port Blast