Syriac Maronite Patriarch al-Raï criticizes Lebanese government’s failure to protect judiciary during Beirut port explosion investigation

BETH KERKE, Lebanon — Following the freezing of the investigation into the 2020 Beirut port explosion following a legal complaint by one of the defendants asked for questioning by judicial investigator Tariq Bitar, who also received oral threats by a Hezbollah official, Syriac Maronite Patriarch Mor Bechara Boutros al-Raï strongly criticized the new Lebanese government in his sermon last Sunday.

He declared that political pressure and threats to judge Bitar have weakened the authority of the Lebanese judiciary and could threaten the continuation of international aid to Lebanon. Mor Bechara Boutros al-Raï added that it is difficult to demand investigating the explosion of the Beirut port in an atmosphere of obstruction and threats. The judicial investigator and the judiciary must be defended to do their work.

“The government may not interfere in the affairs of the judiciary. It is, however, the government’s duty to intervene to stop all interference in the affairs of the judiciary,” the church hierarch stated.

Judge Bitar is not the first investigator to have his work and investigations into the port explosion disrupted. Judge Fadi al-Sawan preceded him but was dismissed in February 2021.