The French judiciary does not provide satellite photos of the port

Judge Tarek Bitar, who is in charge of examining the investigative file on the August 4, 2020 explosion, is meeting with a delegation of French magistrates in charge of the French part of the investigation at the Palace of Justice on Wednesday. French citizens were killed in the explosion that tore apart several districts of Beirut, and the French judiciary was seized by the parents of the victims. French justice is still refusing to release satellite photos of the explosion, which would greatly help the case move forward.

The French judiciary is stepping up its efforts in connection with the explosion in the port of Beirut. On January 23, two French investigating judges, Mr. Nicolas Aubertin and Ms. Marie-Christine Idiart, are expected in Beirut for judicial cooperation in this case.

The question that arises is, first of all, whether the French judges will refer to the satellite images, which France has not yet provided to Lebanon, despite the constant calls for mutual legal assistance by the Lebanese investigating judge, Tarek Bitar. Images that will clearly determine the reasons for the double explosion that occurred on August 4, 2020.” Why did the Lebanese justice system agree to cooperate with French judges when it remained silent in the face of the demands of its Lebanese counterpart? “He asks a lawyer close to this case.

Pressed to deal with this area, French justice is becoming increasingly impatient. On Tuesday, two magistrates who were part of a delegation to Beirut to investigate the embezzlement case met with the Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, Judge Ghassan Oueidate, in the presence of the chief prosecutor at the Court of Cassation. Sabbouh Sleiman, the judge appointed as part of the investigation regarding the explosion.

As a rule, Judge Bitar’s interview with French magistrates is prohibited by law. Since last December, Tarek Bitar no longer has control over the file, and former ministers and deputies have filed several appeals against him. Appeals that the Plenum of the Court of Cassation could not decide due to the lack of quorum and Finance Minister Yusif Khalil’s refusal to sign the decree on the appointment of judges.

However, as with all legal cases involving political interests in a country like Lebanon, the interpretation of the law is not unanimous, especially regarding the possibility of an exchange between the French magistrates and Mr. Bitar.

So, on Tuesday, the lawyers considered that the meeting would be impossible, the investigator, according to the judge, would not be able to continue his investigation. “He cannot talk to them or exchange any information because he has been removed from the file,” said lawyers who spoke to Here Beirut on condition of anonymity. Others, on the other hand, point out that it is wrong to talk about a deal. According to them, Judge Bitar is still leading the investigation, but for reasons beyond his control, he had to stop his work. Therefore, nothing prevents his judicial cooperation with his colleagues. Explaining the meeting in the courthouse on Wednesday.

At the same time, the meeting between the French judges and Mr. Sleiman will be agreed on on January 24. Within the framework of this meeting, the Attorney General of Lebanon undertakes to give verbal information about the petition letters sent to Lebanon within the framework of the investigation opened in France and which remained unanswered. Minister of Justice Henry Khoury clarified this at his press conference last Wednesday. However, according to some sources, Judge Sleiman “will have to request permission from the investigating judge, Tarek Bitar, who has the entire file” to access the file.

Nothing is less certain, worry others. “Prosecutor Oueidate, through Mr. Sleimane, could provide the elements of the file in his possession to the French, based on the previous exchange of information between judges Bitar and Oueidate,” he answered the lawyers’ questions. Indeed, Judge Bitar delivered certain parts of the investigation to the General Prosecutor’s Office for the purposes of the investigation and the measures to be taken (arrest order, etc.).

Regardless, although international conventions mandate judicial cooperation, there is growing commentary on Judge Bitar’s authority to do so. While some strongly rejected the idea that the delegation’s arrival was a tool to pressure the Lebanese state, a senior Lebanese judicial source confirmed to Ichi Beirut that Mr. Bitar would meet with French judges. It will arrive on January 23rd. It is said that he is even studying the possibilities of using international conventions as a basis for solving the problem of prisoners.

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