Wednesday October 27, 2021

Political crisis brews in Lebanon

October 14, 2021

Beirut: Lebanon’s month-old government called off a cabinet session on Wednesday as a political crisis brewed within its ranks over whether to remove a judge investigating the massive August 2020 Beirut port blast.

The debate comes at a time when Lebanese are desperately waiting for the government, formed in September after protracted horse-trading, to tackle Lebanon’s dire economic crisis.

Judge Tarek Bitar was forced to suspend his probe on Tuesday after former ministers he had summoned on suspicion of negligence filed lawsuits against him.

He is now emerging as the target of a political campaign led by the movements Hizbullah and Amal. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah accused him this week of political bias.

Senior Amal lawmaker and former minister Ali Hasan Khalil threatened a "political escalation" if the course of the investigation "was not rectified", after Bitar on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant against him for failing to show up for questioning.

A cabinet session Tuesday ended with a row as ministers affiliated with Hizbullah and Amal pressed the government to support their demand to replace Bitar, according to a senior official who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media.