Riot police fired tear gas outside the home of Lebanese Interim Minister of the Interior Mohamed Fehmi and scuffled with protesters, mostly relatives of victims of the bombing in Beirut port last year.
The demonstrators on Tuesday demanded an end to what they called the obstruction of the investigation of one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. They carried the empty coffin, threw it into the courtyard of the building, squeezed past the security guards, and held a symbolic funeral.
An explosion at the port on August 4, 2020 destroyed the capital, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands. Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive substance used in fertilizers improperly stored in ports for many years, causing an explosion. Many people accused officials of storing explosive materials in ports.
“He killed us again,” said Tracy Naggear, whose 3-year-old daughter was one of the youngest victims of the explosion. She was referring to Fehmi’s decision to refuse a request from the judge who was investigating the bombing to question Major General Abbas Ibrahim, one of Lebanon’s most senior generals and Director of the General Security Service.
Investigating Judge Tarek Bitar said earlier this month that he intends to track down senior politicians and former and current security chiefs in the case and demand that their immunity be lifted so that he can prosecute them.
The families of the victims and survivors praised the judge’s move as a bold step. After he accused two former ministers of negligence for causing the explosion, his predecessor who led the investigation was removed.
Naggear said that the symbolic funeral outside the Fehmi building was held at the scene of a “second crime” for families seeking justice.
When dozens of protesters stormed into Fehmi’s building, broke two metal doors, and scuffled with the riot police who beat them with sticks, the rally became noisy. The police fired tear gas to counter the protesters. This push triggered fierce street fighting with stone-throwing protesters. Many people were injured and received treatment at the scene.
The protesters sprayed the word “killer” in red at the entrance of the Fermi building, while the men threw tomatoes at the building.
“Mohamed Fermi, we will not leave you alone. Eliminate immunity,” said Ibrahim Hotet, whose brother Tawat was killed in the explosion.