Riot police in Beirut have cracked down on protesters laying coffins outside the home of Lebanon’s interior minister. The demonstrators, who lost family in the port blast last year, blame him for protecting those responsible.
The protesters set off from downtown Beirut on Tuesday afternoon and marched toward the home of Mohammed Fahmi, currently serving as Lebanon’s caretaker interior minister. Carrying coffins to represent the loved ones they lost in 2020’s devastating port explosion, they demanded that Fahmi lift the immunity granted to senior officials, who they say allowed the blast to happen through negligence.
صرخة والدة أحد ضحايا جريمة المرفأ أمام منزل وزير الداخلية محمد فهمي #أخبار_الساحة#انفجار_مرفأ_بيروتpic.twitter.com/JsuVwuhysq
According to MTV News, a local outlet, the protesters tried to cross a security checkpoint outside Fahmi’s house to leave the coffins outside his door. Some demonstrators reportedly pulled down an iron gate in front of the building and the security forces responded aggressively.
Video footage shows the security officers clubbing and pepper-spraying the protesters, as the crowd pushes back.
Thugs Riot Police beating the families members of the #BeirutBlast victims pic.twitter.com/YYvhIeGocU
Security forces beating up families of the #BeirutBlast victims who are already injured both emotionally and physically since August 4th 2020. These are the orders of Mohamad Fehmi, minister of Interior, who wouldn’t lift immunity off Lebanese ministers. #Lebanonpic.twitter.com/JUxsVmcmsz
اهالي ضحايا انفجار بيروت يحملون النعوش ويحاولون اقتحام منزل محمد فهمي، وزير الداخلية. #اسقطوا_الحصانات_الانpic.twitter.com/psZ1kLcElU
It’s unclear how many people were hurt in the affray. Photos from the scene show at least two protesters bleeding from the head.
The Families of the #Beirutblast victims were beaten by the Riot Police protecting Minister Fehmi residency pic.twitter.com/apFFJ2JNrb
More than 200 people were killed after 3,000 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate stored in poor conditions at the Port of Beirut blew up on August 4, 2020. The blast injured more than 6,000 people and devastated the Lebanese capital. The explosion further exacerbated the country’s ongoing economic and political crisis.
Amid rumors that the chemicals were knowingly stored in unsafe conditions, investigating the blast has proven an uphill struggle. The lead investigator of the explosion was ousted in February by two ministers charged with negligence, and his successor, a judge, has requested that parliamentary immunity be lifted so that three former ministers can be interviewed about their potential roles in the disaster.
Another official of interest to investigators is Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of the General Security Agency. Earlier this month, Fahmi refused a request by the judge in charge of the inquiry to question Ibrahim.
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