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Lebanon's PM signs bill rescinding officials' legal immunity over Beirut explosion

No senior official has been held accountable more than a year after the deadly blast, as investigation stalls amid political bickering
Protesters march with burning torches in Beirut
Protesters march with burning torches alongside families of the August 4 victims, during a symbolic funeral procession from Beirut port on August 8, 2021 (AFP)

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in a Sky News Arabia interview on Wednesday that he had signed a bill that lifted prosecutorial immunity on "everyone" who might have borne responsibility for the Beirut port blast, stating they must be held accountable.

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The disastrous 4 August 2020 explosion left more than 200 people dead and devastated swaths of the Lebanese capital.

Mikati added that Lebanon's constitution stipulated that senior government officials must be tried in front of a special tribunal.

The bill will need to win the approval of Lebanon's fractious Parliament before officials can be formally stripped of their immunity from prosecution.

The investigation into the explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history, has been frozen amid an alleged smear campaign against investigative Judge Tarek Bitar and pushback from powerful Lebanese factions.

The prime minister said the government would extend help to the families of the blast's victims, adding that a plan had been formulated to reconstruct the port, a vital lifeline in the country's economy.

Many in Lebanon, particularly families of the victims of the blast, are enraged that no senior official has been held accountable, more than a year after the exlosion.

Bitar's efforts to question former and serving state officials - including the prime minister at the time of the blast, former ministers and senior security officials - on suspicion of negligence, have been repeatedly denied.