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Lebanon refuses to release bodies of blast victims with outstanding parking tickets

Lebanese authorities are asking for proof that the people killed in last week’s blast don’t have outstanding parking tickets before their bodies are handed over

Lebanese authorities are asking for proof that the people killed in last week's blast don't have outstanding parking tickets before their bodies are handed over.

In a now widely shared video on MTV, one man tells the TV presenter that they needed a certain document in order to receive his brother's body:

I had to wait for over two and a half hours. They requested my ID and my brother's ID, to confirm the death. It was important for them to know if my brother had a speeding ticket so that it could be paid before receiving the body.

Twitter user Leil-Zahra Mortada, who posted the interview, said she knows of at least one other mother who was denied receiving the body of her son over an unpaid parking ticket.

In response to a request for comment by MEMO, the Lebanese Embassy in London said: "It is a standard procedure to request information about the deceased and the victim in order to close any outstanding case that he or she is involved in. This process takes around 45 minutes and the release of the body is not conditional to finalise the paperwork."

More than 200 people were killed, 6,000 were injured and some 300,000 made homeless after a massive explosion in Beirut port ripped through the capital last Tuesday. The blast destroyed parts of the city and intensified the economic and political distress which has engulfed Lebanon for months.

Lebanon's health system was already on its knees due to the coronavirus pandemic and hospitals, already full to capacity, were turning people away.

Authorities say the explosion came from a 2,750-tonne shipment of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that had been at the port since 2014.

Lebanon president: Calls for probe into Beirut blast are effort to 'waste time'

Whilst Lebanese politicians have called for an international inquiry into the explosion, Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said it is an attempt to "waste time."

The Lebanese government is facing fresh calls to stand down, including by Lebanon's Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, who said the cabinet should resign if it can't change the way it governs.

Protesters are also calling for leaders to resign over what they describe as negligence and failure to prevent the explosion. People are outraged that the ammonium nitrate was seized six years ago but was never moved and was stored in a warehouse close to the city centre with no safety precautions.

On Saturday the biggest protests since October rocked the country when some 10,000 people marched from the port to Martyrs' Square with some attempting to break down a barricade blocking parliament.

Several demonstrators burned a picture of Aoun, calling on others to occupy the ministries from inside. Whilst protesters stormed government ministries and the headquarters of the country's banking association, police fired tear gas at them.

Last year, demonstrators gathered to protest against corruption, bad governance and mismanagement which has manifested in power cuts, lack of rubbish collections, a failing health care system, rising debt and lack of economic reform.

In the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, Lebanon ranked 137 out of 180 countries.

UPDATE: At 07:41am (GMT) on 11 August 2020 this item was updated to include a comment from the Lebanese Embassy in London.

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