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  • Lebanese politician in Beirut blast investigation under fire over daughter’s wedding

Lebanese politician in Beirut blast investigation under fire over daughter’s wedding

Youssef Fenianos has been charged over the storage of the chemical that caused the Beirut explosion. (AFP)
Youssef Fenianos has been charged over the storage of the chemical that caused the Beirut explosion. (AFP)
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21 Aug 2021 12:08:15 GMT9
21 Aug 2021 12:08:15 GMT9
  • Youssef Fenianos requested anti-riot units in case family event targeted by protesters
  • Former minister has been charged over the storage of the ammonium nitrate that blew up in August last year

Bassam Zaazaa

BEIRUT: A Lebanese former minister wanted for questioning over his alleged involvement in the August 2020 Beirut blast has sparked anger for requesting anti-riot police to guard his daughter’s wedding.  

A leaked Internal Security Forces’ (ISF) document showed Youssef Fenianos had asked for the security presence at the church where his daughter gets married on Saturday in case of political demonstrations.

The document, published by VDL (Voice of Lebanon) news website, said the ISF agreed to dispatch two anti-riot units to Fenianos’s hometown of Ehden in northern Lebanon.  

The request provoked fury in Lebanon because Fenianos is being investigated over the explosion last year that killed more than 200 people. There is also widespread anger at the ruling class, which is seen as corrupt and responsible for the country’s economic collapse.

Lebanon is now crippled by widespread power black outs and fuel shortages.

Fenianos was accused on social media of disrespecting the blast victims’ families and using his political influence to protect the wedding from protests.

The massive explosion took place when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was detonated by a fire at Beirut Port. The chemical had been stored at the site for more than seven years without proper safety precautions.

Fenianos, a former public works and transportation minister, was one of three MPs and former ministers charged by the blast’s investigating judge Tarek Bitar.

The charges include “negligence” and “possible intent to murder” because they were aware of the ammonium nitrate “and did not take measures to spare the country the risks of an explosion.”

Local media reported that a relative of Fenianos posted on Facebook an alleged death threat addressed to one of the victim’s relatives who was expected to protest at the wedding.

The post is believed to have been addressed to William Noon, whose firefighter brother died in the Beirut Blast.

Commenting over the incident, famous Lebanese actress and producer, Carine Rizcallah said when the person in charge becomes afraid of his people and asks for protection from the people “then he’s finished politically and that’s the case of most Lebanese politicians.”

Popular TV presenter Nabila Awad posted the security document on her twitter and commented “Shameless! Shameless and licentious!”

Fenianos was scheduled for questioning by judge Bitar on Friday but police said they had been unable to reach him at his office or residence due to blocked roads and could not deliver the subpoena due to fuel shortages.

Al Janoubia news said Bitar has rescheduled a session to question Fenianos.

A civil society activist told Arab News that the demonstration at the wedding was discussed within four to five WhatsApp groups used by protesters.

“The aim was to deliver a message to Fenianos that nobody is above the law and he cannot carry on with his life as if nothing has happened … let him appear before the investigating judge, testify and clear his name,” the activist, who asked not to be named, said.   

The ISF said the decision to dispatch anti-riot units to the wedding was taken to prevent “public disorder and unruly behavior.”

“Following a chain of social media posts about some activists’ intent to demonstrate during the celebration, which could eventually lead to acts of public disorder, ISF decided as part of its mission and duty to maintain public order to dispatch anti-riot units,” the statement said.  

An ISF senior officer, who requested anonymity, confirmed to Arab News that the decision was a “standard procedure that ISF implements in similar situations and incidents and there’s nothing political behind it.”

The incident is the latest in which politicians’ extravagant family wedding plans have sparked public anger as the country continues towards meltdown.

 Last month, the luxurious wedding of the daughter of former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili circulated online, stirring dismay as many people have seen the life savings evaporate in the crisis.

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