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Fadi Sawan: The man leading the Beirut explosion investigation

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Fadi Sawan's
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Timour Azhari



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This makes his work all the more crucial.But the process that led to Sawan's selection and his management of a number of high-profile cases raise questions about whether he is the right man for the job.The case he is investigating has implicated dozens of security, administrative and political officials who were aware of the presence of some 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate at Beirut's port, which has been there for more than six years, but did nothing to remove it. Many of these officials are either directly or indirectly affiliated with major political parties that hold the reigns of power in Lebanon.Sawan will have to show great independence and perseverance, especially given chronic political interference in Lebanon's judiciary - a practice so pervasive state media made it a point to note Sawan "is known to visit neither politicians, nor even his fellow judges … he does not participate in social or political events and is known to not receive instructions".The process that led to Sawan's selection is not encouraging.Najem had first proposed Samer Younes, a judge who "is not only independent, but proved he is one of the very few judges ready to get into a battle for justice", said Nizar Saghieh, a leading Lebanese legal expert and founder of NGO the Legal Agenda.But the Higher Judicial Council (HJC) - a 10 judge panel appointed by the country's ruling class - rejected Younes, without offering any explanation. But Sawan received a call from then-Justice Minister Salim Jreissati, asking him to transfer the case to a judge close to the FPM, Marcel Bassil, according to three lawyers familiar with the matter, including Saghieh.In doing so, he helped the FPM secure control over a case that they had a direct interest in politicising.Jreissati did not respond to a request for comment."It's clear that he implemented the political order he got, even though it is his job to make decisions regarding the case and the justice minister has no role there," Saghieh said."He lost his independence," Saghieh said, noting the political pressures associated with the Beirut blast investigation would likely be much greater.The Beirut explosion case that Sawan is now leading is unprecedented in the history of Lebanon. It directly concerns tens of thousands of people who were either injured, had their homes destroyed, lost people close to them and will be picking up the pieces of their lives for years to come.Its scale has also made the explosion a national and international issue.So far, the Lebanese public has expressed little confidence in the investigation, owing to a long history of impunity for crimes that have left Lebanon crisis-ridden, bankrupt and forlorn - a country bathed in "corruption, but with no one corrupt", as the sarcastic local saying goes.Local and international rights groups and the families of some victims have called for an international investigation, or at least an investigation empowered by international experts, saying it is the only way to achieve accountability given the sad state of Lebanon's judiciary.Najem, the justice minister, previously told Al Jazeera the blast case was a chance for Lebanon's judiciary to show "they can do their jobs and win back the confidence of the people".But few survivors have shown a willingness to place bets on those odds - especially when it concerns the lives of their friends and family, their capital city and their country."From appointing high-level judges to making late-night phone calls in individual cases, the political class has undermined the independence of the judiciary at every possible opportunity - especially in cases involving official corruption or shortcomings," said Nadim Houri, the director of the Arab Reform Initiative and a lawyer specialised in human rights."The net result has been a culture of total impunity for politicians and security officers."Follow Timour Azhari on Twitter: @TimourAzhari

As said here by Timour Azhari