Lebanese lawyer files complaint against leaders over blast

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese lawyer filed a legal complaint Wednesday against the country’s president and prime minister for allegedly not taking action to remove dangerous material that had been stored at the port of Beirut.

The material — 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in fertilizers and explosives — ignited earlier this month, killing scores and wounding thousands of people.

The complaint by lawyer Majd Harb is largely symbolic. It’s centered on the fact that President Michel Aoun and outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab received a security report two weeks before the Aug. 4, explosion, warning about the dangers of storing the chemical.

Following the explosion, Aoun said that once he received the report, he asked his military adviser to immediately act on it and do what was necessary. However, it was not clear why the material was not removed. There has been no comment from Diab, who resigned under pressure few days after the blast.

“They did not take any measures to prevent the explosion,” Harb’s complaint said. It was published by the state-run National News Agency.

Documents that surfaced after the blast, showed that many customs, port, intelligence, military and judicial officials, as well as political leaders, knew about the stockpile of ammonium nitrate at Warehouse 12 at Beirut’s port and nothing was done.

The explosion, which killed 180 people, injured about 6,000 and left nearly 300,000 people homeless was the most destructive single incident in Lebanon’s history, leaving losses worth between $10 and $15 billion. There are 30 still missing after the explosion.

So far authorities have detained 19 persons, many of them customs and port officials, and are questioning them. The head of the port and the country’s customs chief were both formally detained earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Judge Fadi Sawwan formally arrested two more port staffers, including the keeper of the manifest, according to state-run National News Agency.

There are concerns in the corruption-plagued country that the investigation will be manipulated and some have called for an international probe.

Popular anger has swelled over the ruling elite’s corruption and mismanagement. Lebanon’s government, which is supported by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies, resigned on Aug. 10 and continues to serve in a caretaker capacity. There are no formal consultations underway on who will replace Diab as prime minister and no likely candidate has emerged.

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