Lebanon’s former fin. minister says Beirut blast arrest warrant against him not legal

Lebanon’s former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Tuesday the arrest warrant issued against him by the lead investigator of the Beirut port blast was illegal.

“I consider it illegal and not to be taken into account,” Khalil told Lebanese pro-Iranian TV channel al-Mayadeen in an interview. He added that the investigation ignored the ministers who are directly involved with details of the case and focused instead on the minister of finance as a formality.

Khalil also accused the lead investigator of being “politicized”, adding that the probe will be the topic of discussion at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

“There will be political escalation or another type of escalation if the direction of this case is not corrected,” Khalil said.

The probe into the deadly August 2020 Beirut blast has been suspended again after two politicians wanted for questioning filed complaints against the case’s lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar.

The influential Shia political movement Hezbollah, who Khalil is close to, called on Monday for Bitar to be removed from the case. And some ministers pushed for Bitar’s removal in Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, according to Reuters’ sources.

The cabinet decided to continue discussions of the Beirut blast probe on in a session on Wednesday, according to the state news agency NNA.

Bitar is the second judge to handle the investigation into the blast after Fadi Sawan was removed from the case in February following similar complaints by politicians about his impartiality.

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