6 detainees in Beirut blast ordered freed
BEIRUT — The Lebanese judge leading the investigation into last year’s huge blast at Beirut’s port on Thursday ordered the release of six people, including security officers, who had been detained for months, the state news agency reported.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the release of the men, who include an officer who had written a detailed warning to top officials about the dangers of the material stored at the port.
Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored for years, exploded Aug. 4, killing 211 people, wounding more than 6,000 and damaging nearby neighborhoods.
Judge Tarek Bitar was named to lead the investigation in February after his predecessor was removed after legal challenges by two former Cabinet ministers he had accused of negligence.
The state-run National News Agency said Bitar ordered the release of the six, including Maj. Joseph Naddaf of the State Security Department and Maj. Charbel Fawaz of the General Security Directorate. The four others are customs and port employees.
The six will be banned from traveling outside Lebanon, according to a judicial official who added that 19 people are still being held, including the head of the customs department and his predecessor and the port’s director-general.