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Lebanon removes judge heading blast probe, victims' lawyer says

Judge Fadi Sawan had charged three ex-ministers and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab with negligence over the Beirut blast

A Lebanese court decided on Thursday to remove investigating Judge Fadi Sawan from the Beirut port blast probe, Youssef Lahoud, the lawyer who represents around 1,400 victims of the explosion, told Reuters.

Judge Fadi Sawan had charged three ex-ministers and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab with negligence over the huge explosion, the largest non-nuclear blast in history, that occurred on 4 August and further exacerbated strains on a country struggling with its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Several politicians had criticised Sawan after the charges, saying he was selective and had overstepped his powers.

READ: Ex-Lebanon army chief summoned for questioning as blast probe resumes

Lebanese authorities suspended investigations into the incident on 17 December after two former ministers charged in the case filed a motion asking Lebanon's Court of Cassation to replace Sawan.

"The stalled domestic investigation, riddled with serious due process violations, as well as political leaders' attempts to stop the investigation reinforce the need for an independent, international inquiry," HRW said in a statement earlier this month.

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