Investigation into Beirut’s massive 2020 port blast resumes

FILE – A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, on Aug. 5, 2020. Lebanon’s top prosecutor Wednesday Jan. 25, 2023 ordered all suspects detained in the deadly 2020 port blast released, a lawyer for two detainees and judicial officials said. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

BEIRUT — The judge investigating Beirut’s massive 2020 port blast resumed work Monday after a nearly 13-month halt, ordering the release of some detainees and announcing plans to charge others, including two top generals. 

Judge Tarek Bitar’s work had been blocked since December 2021 pending a Court of Cassation ruling after three former Cabinet ministers filed legal challenges against him. The court is the highest in the land. 

The Aug. 4, 2020, disaster happened when hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, a material used in fertilizers, detonated at Beirut’s port killing more than 200, injuring over 6,000 and damaging large parts of Beirut. The explosion is considered one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. 

It later emerged that the ammonium nitrate had been shipped to Lebanon in 2013 and stored improperly at a port warehouse ever since. Senior political and security officials knew of its presence but did nothing.