Former Lebanon justice min. blames Hezbollah for deaths of hundreds

The devastating explosion at Beirut port continues to cause waves in Lebanon, threatening to deepen the rift between the already divided Lebanese people.

A demonstrator waves the Lebanese flag in front of riot police during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, August 8, 2020 (photo credit: GORAN TOMASEVIC/REUTERS)
A demonstrator waves the Lebanese flag in front of riot police during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, August 8, 2020
Lebanon has been experiencing unrest following new discoveries surfacing in the investigation surrounding the explosion at the Beirut port on August 4 that led to hundreds of casualties and thousands of injuries.
Maj.-Gen. Ashraf Rifi, a former justice minister and retired commander of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, said on Thursday that he has testified to the team leading the investigation that Iran is behind the shipment of ammonium nitrate sent to Hezbollah that caused the terrible explosion.  
He urged the judge to allow him to publish his testimony, saying, "I call on the judge to make my testimony public. And my message to Hezbollah is to not think that it has succeeded in sabotaging the investigation of the crime of the century, and limiting it to a few several clerks who knew about the presence of the ammonium nitrate but remained silent," Rifi said. 
"I've mentioned it in my testimony to the investigating judge, and I will say it again: The shipment of ammonium nitrate was sent to Lebanon by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for Hezbollah," Rifi noted in a statement, which came as a response to a lawsuit filed against him by Hezbollah's attorneys, who are suing him for "incitement, sparking controversy and endangering civil peace," following similar accusations he has made in the past. 
Giving his statement on Thursday, Rifi described how he told the investigating committee that "large quantities of ammonium nitrate were designated for the Syrian regime, while other large shipments were sent by Hezbollah to its affiliated terrorist groups in Cyprus, Kuwait, Germany and other foreign countries." He added that "the security forces know that Hezbollah controls the Beirut port for smuggling and exporting explosives, and that's why the organization established a private security and customs area in the port."  
Rifi later tweeted: "Hezbollah has finally found out that Lebanon has a judiciary system, despite its belief that it can bend it and turn it into one of its tools for terrorizing and eliminating opponents," adding that, "the investigation will find out sooner or later who brought the chemical materials and who stored, protected and used them – exposing the criminal who threatened the negligent employees and those who stayed silent because they were afraid or ashamed.
"We are not afraid and won't fear your assassinations and intimidation," Rifi wrote, attacking Hezbollah. "The innocent "The innocent shahids [martyrs] who lost their lives and those who were injured [in the port explosion] will receive the justice they deserve, and the truth will be exposed."  
Rifi is one of several notable Lebanese officials who have openly accused Hezbollah for being behind the explosion at Beirut's port.
On December 5, it was reported that Hezbollah was suing several entities that had held it responsible for the explosion, including former Lebanese Christian member of parliament Fares Souaid as well as a right-wing Lebanese Forces website. Souaid was one of the first Lebanese officials to publicly blame Hezbollah for the Beirut blast, claiming in September that ammunition stored by Hezbollah caused the explosion. 
Official documents have indicated that the Lebanese Ports Authority, security agencies and political leadership were all aware of the dangerous chemicals being stored at the port, but failed to take action for their removal. Different reports have indicated in the past that the Beirut Port is often used as a storehouse for dangerous materials and is an epicenter of public corruption.