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10 Dec, 2020 15:23

‘My conscience is clear,’ says Lebanese PM as court indicts him on charges of negligence over Beirut port blast

‘My conscience is clear,’ says Lebanese PM as court indicts him on charges of negligence over Beirut port blast

The Lebanese prosecutor probing last summer’s devastating explosion at Beirut port has filed charges against the caretaker prime minister and three former ministers, but the PM insists his “hands are clean.”

Following the announcement that charges would be brought against caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers, the Lebanese leader’s office issued a statement on Thursday declaring his innocence.

“The prime minister has a clear conscience and is confident that his hands are clean with regards to his responsible and transparent handling of the Beirut port explosion file,” the statement reads. 

“He is surprised by this targeting that goes beyond the person to his position. Hassan Diab will not allow the prime minister’s position to be targeted from any party.”

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Earlier on Thursday, Judge Fadi Sawwan filed charges against Diab as well as former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, as well as Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Fenianos, both former ministers of public works.

All four have been charged with carelessness and negligence which led to the explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4.

The blast, which was caused by the ignition of a large stockpile of ammonium nitrate that had been poorly stored at the port for years, killed at least 204, injured thousands and resulted in more than $15 billion of property damage. More than 300,000 people were displaced by the blast.

It is claimed that public officials were aware of the potential disaster waiting to happen, but failed to order the disposal of the ammonium nitrate. Approximately 30 people have been detained as part of the probe into the causes of the disaster.

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Diab resigned a few days after the blast, but subsequent efforts to form a new government failed, and he has since continued in office as caretaker PM. The political deadlock has also contributed to a spiralling economic crisis, exacerbated by the port explosion and the Covid pandemic.

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