Lebanon judge charges dozens over deadly Beirut clashes

A Lebanese judge has charged 68 people for the recent fatal unrest in Beirut. Seven people were killed and dozens more wounded in clashes, said to be the worst street violence in years in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s state news agency reported on Monday that Government Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Fadi Akiki had charged 68 people with crimes including murder, incitement to sectarian strife, the possession of unlicensed weapons, and more. According to the outlet, 18 of those are in detention.

Violent clashes erupted on October 14 between Lebanon’s two Shiite factions, Hezbollah and Amal, and gunmen believed to be supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces Party. The unrest broke out during a Hezbollah-led protest against Tarek Bitar, the lead judge probing last year’s Beirut port blast that killed over 200 and wounded thousands.

Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces Party, has stated his refusal to be questioned by the judge unless he questions Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah first.

The turbulence that gripped the city and claimed seven lives took place on the border of Beirut’s Chiyah and Ain el-Rumaneh neighborhoods, the same frontline that divided the capital during the Lebanese civil war.

Lebanon’s military deployed armored vehicles to squash the unrest and declared that its troops would fire at any armed individual on the capital’s streets.

The protest came after the Lebanese court dismissed complaints from ex-Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeiter, who were due to appear in the docks, allowing the judge to resume his investigation. Both of the men are allies of, or close to, the Hezbollah movement.

Before the probe was suspended for the second time in weeks, Nasrallah called for Bitar to be replaced due to his alleged politicization of the case and targeting specific officials.

Despite attempts to serve justice, the investigation into the port blast has made little headway in holding senior officials accountable. Bitar is the second judge to lead the probe after his predecessor, Fadi Sawan, was removed from his role in February after being hit with accusations that he was acting out of his jurisdiction by former ministers accused of negligence.

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