Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who resigned in the wake of the Beirut port explosion, filed a suit against the state on Wednesday over his prosecution by investigating judge Tarek Bitar for his role in the disaster, local Al Jadeed TV reported.
The suit, filed one day before a scheduled interrogation by the judge, means that Bitar must pause his prosecution of Diab once he is officially notified of the case, lawyer Nizar Saghieh of watchdog group Legal Agenda told Reuters.
Diab, who has been charged with negligence over the Aug. 4. 2020 port blast that killed more than 215 people, has missed at least two interrogation sessions scheduled by Bitar. Nearly all the senior officials he has sought to question have also spurned him.
A lawyer representing Diab did not respond to a request for comment.
Bitar has in the past issued arrest warrants for ministers who failed to show up for interrogation, and Diab’s lawsuit was likely an 11th-hour attempt to prevent a similar scenario after his interrogation scheduled for Thursday, Saghieh said.
Diab has argued that the judge does not have the authority to prosecute him, as have a number of former ministers charged by Bitar who have filed a slew of lawsuits and motions seeking to have the judge removed.
Diab, a Sunni Muslim, on Tuesday met with Lebanon’s top Sunni authority, Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, who later issued a statement saying that Diab could only be prosecuted at a special court formed by a parliamentary vote.
That court has never held any official accountable and attempts to refer officials to it are widely viewed by the families of victims as a ploy to limit the probe.