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Lebanon judges resign over political interference in judiciary

Lebanese people hold Lebanese flag around the site after the deadly explosion at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts on 4th August in Beirut, Lebanon on 9 August 2020 [Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency]
Lebanese people hold Lebanese flag around the site after the deadly explosion at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts on 4th August in Beirut, Lebanon on 9 August 2020 [Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency]

Three Lebanese judges have resigned in protest of the interference by politicians in the judiciary, as significant cases continue to be hijacked and influenced by political actors.

The ongoing investigation into the catastrophic explosion that hit large parts of the capital Beirut last year is one such case, with the investigation and the judge leading it – Tarek Bitar – being condemned and targeted by some politicians and interest groups in the country.

Bitar is the second judge to fill that role after the previous one was forced out and removed in February due to huge opposition by both Shia and Sunni political blocs and ministers. He has especially earned the anger of the Iran-backed Shia militia Hezbollah, as well as politicians affiliated with it who have accused him of having bias and singling them out.

According to an anonymous judicial source who spoke to the news agency AFP, that interference in the judiciary has now prompted three Lebanese judges to resign "to protest…political interference in the work of the judiciary and the undermining of decisions issued by judges and courts."

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The source added that "The constant questioning of the judiciary's decisions is tarnishing its reputation."

In an attempt to remove Bitar and obstruct the investigation, dozens of lawsuits have been filed by numerous politicians targeting him and his alleged bias. One of the judges who resigned – all of whom are women – reportedly personally dealt with the corruption herself, when she turned down a request by an official to remove the investigator.

In October, protests broke out across Beirut both in support of and opposition against Bitar, leading to armed clashes which killed around seven and wounded dozens. Following that incident, Hezbollah and its media affiliates demanded the end of the investigation itself.

READ: Tension over Beirut blast probe tips Lebanon into new crisis

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