UN Lebanon tribunal orders release of 4 generals accused in Hariri assassination

[JURIST] A judge for the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website] ordered the release of four generals [UN News Centre report] who had been held on suspicion of their involvement in the February 2005 suicide bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] and 22 others. The court's pre-trial decision came after prosecutor Daniel Bellemare announced Monday that he was declining to seek a continuation of the generals' nearly four-year detention because of a lack of evidence and due to the legal principle of presumed innocence. The generals' release was celebrated with cheers and fireworks throughout Beirut. General Jamil El-Sayed delivered the following speech [in Arabic] upon his release:



Earlier this month, STL Pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen ordered [UN News Centre report] Bellemare to submit either a reasoned request for the continued detention of the four generals or a declination thereof. A Lebanese judge ordered the transfer of documents [JURIST report] relating to Hariri’s assassination to the STL early this month, thereby granting sole jurisdiction over the case against the four accused generals to the tribunal. In March 2008, lead prosecutor Daniel Bellemare [Ya Libnan profile] said he believed a criminal network was behind the assassination [JURIST report]. The investigation into the assassination has been extended past its original anticipated end date and expanded [JURIST reports] to cover other assassinations in the country. Several reports from the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) [authorizing resolution; UN materials], also headed by Bellemare, have implicated Syrian officials [JURIST report] in Hariri's death.

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