BEIRUT, Oct. 17 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, the leading Christian minister, said on Sunday the country’s judiciary should be free of political interference and sectarian “activism” amid mounting tensions over one Investigation of last year’s explosion around the port of Beirut.
Rai also said it was unacceptable for either party to resort to threats or violence following the deadly unrest related to last week’s investigation – the worst street blood in Lebanon in more than a decade, and memories of the ruinous civil war of Lebanon 1975 to 1990 awakened.
“We must free the judiciary from political interference, sectarian and partisan political activism and respect their independence according to the principle of separation of powers,” he said in his sermon.
“Nobody is above the law and the judiciary.”
Rai, the head of the Maronite Church, has an influential role as the religious head of the largest Christian community in Lebanon, where political power is divided between its main Christian, Muslim and Druze sects.
The investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated parts of Beirut, has made little progress despite opposition from powerful political groups. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Judge Tarek Bitar – the lead investigator – is biased and politicized. Continue reading
Seven Shiite Muslims were killed Thursday as crowds headed for an anti-Bitar demonstration convened by the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah group and its Shiite ally, Amal.
The violence heightened concerns about the stability of a country flooded with weapons and grappling with an economic meltdown.
âThe democratic system has given us peaceful means of freedom of expression, be it in support or opposition, so it is unacceptable for a party to use threats or violence and set up party or tribal checkpoints to do what they do by force want, âsaid Rai. .
“We refuse to substitute vengeance for justice?” he said.
He added that the Lebanese Council of Ministers must meet, make decisions and respect authority.
Hezbollah blamed the Christian Lebanese Armed Forces Party for Thursday’s deaths, an accusation that the party’s head Samir Geagea dismissed.
On Thursday, the army first said that protesters had been shot as they passed the Teyouneh roundabout, which separates the Christian and Shiite Muslim quarters. It was later said that there had been an “altercation and exchange of fire” as protesters were on their way to the demonstration.
Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi Writing by Michael Georgy Editing by Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry
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