Protesters clashed with riot police Beirutcapital of Lebanonwhen they attempted to enter the judiciary seat after the country’s chief prosecutor filed complaints against the judge investigating the massive 2020 explosion at the port and ordered the suspects in the case released, especially a man with US citizenship.
Among those released was a US citizen whose detention without trial prompted threats of sanctions from US authorities. After his release, he quickly left Lebanon, defying the travel ban.
This is the port official Ziad Aufwith dual US and Lebanese citizenship, was arrested three days after the August 4, 2020 explosion of hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, a material used in fertilizers. The explosion killed 218 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged much of the Lebanese capital.
US authorities deemed Auf “unlawfully detained” without trial for two years and nearly six months, said Nizar Zakka, president of US-based Hostage Aid Worldwide, which represented Auf. Zakka added that even if Auf were to be charged, he would be released as his detention period is equivalent to Lebanon’s maximum sentence for negligence charges.
In turn, US authorities threatened Lebanon with sanctions if Auf was not released, Zakka said, noting that a section of the Robert Levinson “Hostage Recovery and Accountability for Hostage Taking” law – which bears the name of a US agent ‘Retired FBI who disappeared in 2007 and is now presumed dead, authorizes the President of the United States to impose sanctions
Among the sanctions are visa revocations, which are believed to be involved in the unjust detention of Americans.
Soon after his release, Auf was briefly taken to his Beirut apartment to collect some of his belongings before US embassy officials escorted him to Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, where he boarded a plane to leave the country, said his daughter Dalia. Thursday the Associated Press.
The Beirut explosion that exposed an economic and social collapse
On August 4, 2020, at least 550 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded at Warehouse 12 in the Port of Beirut. The rest had been stolen, controlled, shared like the port, between the Civil Warlords and their Hezbollah successors, the Shia militia, all traffickers in arms and explosives. It has left 200 dead and 4,000 wounded and a destruction that won’t go away.
The explosion is symbolic of Lebanon today, amid a wider economic and political crisis, which has plunged the country into pain and exile.
Beirut is not the only city to have suffered destruction from ammonium nitrate. Compost is a commodity that is regularly traded in everyday use as a fertilizer, but it is also highly volatile. A similar explosion in Tianjin, China in 2015 killed 173 people.
That of Beirut was similar in nature but very different in political effects. It occurred in the heart of the capital, crossing commercial and residential districts and damaging or destroying some of the city’s most famous historic buildings.
With information from agencies
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.