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Prosecutor in Lebanon’s port blast summons former army chief

BEIRUT (AP) – The prosecutor investigating final yr’s large explosion on the port of Lebanon’s capital has summoned a number of folks, together with a former army commander, for questioning in the case, judicial officers mentioned Monday.

The questioning marks the resumption of Judge Fadi Sawwan’s investigation into the explosion after practically a two-month pause following authorized challenges to his authority. The summonses got here as Lebanon started easing a strict 25-day nationwide lockdown that included a curfew to attempt to restrict the unfold of the coronavirus.

State-run National News Agency mentioned Sawwan has set appointments to listen to witnesses and others charged in the Aug. 4, explosion of practically 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a extremely explosive materials used largely as a fertilizer.

The blast, one of many largest non-nuclear explosions in historical past, kil-led 211 folks, injured over 6,000 and broken total neighborhoods in the capital Beirut.

Among these summoned for questioning by Sawwan is former army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji, judicial officers mentioned. The officers, who spoke on situation of anonymity in line with rules, mentioned Kahwaji can be questioned as a witness.

The names of the others to be questioned haven’t been launched.

The army command, when Kahwaji was in cost, was one of many entities that exchanged letters with the customs division on what to do with the ammonium nitrate because it was saved in a warehouse on the port for six years till it blew up.

In April 2016, the army mentioned in a letter that it didn’t want the fabric, including that if a non-public explosive firm in Lebanon additionally didn’t want it, the fabric needs to be exported on the expense of the ship proprietor who introduced it to Lebanon.

The resumption of the investigation is prone to ease issues by members of the general public who feared the investigation may finish, given Lebanon’s decades-long tradition of impunity.

Nearly 30 folks, most of them port and customs officers, have been arrested for the reason that blast.

In December, Sawwan filed costs in opposition to caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers, accusing them of negligence resulting in the deaths of a whole bunch of individuals.

Diab and the three former ministers didn’t present up for questioning following the fees.

The summoning of Diab sparked concerted criticism from most of Lebanon’s prime politicians and the militant Hezbollah group, which urged Sawwan to rethink his choice after describing it as politically motivated.

Sawwan paused his investigation to permit him to answer accusations that he violated authorized and constitutional procedures by summoning Diab and the former ministers.

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