Lebanon tribunal files indictment against Hezbollah members in Hariri case

[JURIST] The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website] on Thursday released [press release] to Lebanese authorities an indictment [JURIST report] with four arrest warrants in relation to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The warrants were issued for Mustafa Badreddine, Salim al-Ayyash, Hasan Aineysseh and Asad Sabra, who are alleged members [Lebanon Daily Star report] of Hezbollah [CFR backgrounder]. Lebanon has 30 days to arrest the suspects before the STL personally summons them and makes the indictment public. In a press conference [press release, in Arabic], Prime Minister Najib Mikati [official website] stated that "the indictments, from whatever source, [are] not sentences, and the charges need to contain compelling evidence beyond any doubt, and that every defendant is innocent until proven guilty." Many have interpreted [Al Jazeera report] this statement as an indication that Hezbollah members will not be arrested. Although Mikati was endorsed in the election by Hezbollah, he said he will not "take sides."

In February, the appeals chamber of the STL issued a unanimous ruling [summary, PDF; press release] on several procedural issues, including the definition of terrorism [JURIST report], in judicial proceedings. The STL began debate on the issue [JURIST report] to determine which laws to apply in the case against persons accused of involvement in the February 2005 truck bomb that killed Hariri and 22 other people. Using the Article 314 of the Lebanese Criminal Code [text, PDF] the court held that a conviction on the charge of terrorism requires proof of an act intended to spread terror and use of a means "liable to create a public danger," that the only requirement is that "the means used to carry out the terrorist attack be liable to create a common danger" and that the trial judges should be given latitude in determining whether the requirement was met after having considered the facts presented in the case. In August, Hezbollah submitted evidence to the STL [JURIST report] linking Israel with the bombing. The STL asked for the evidence [JURIST report] a week earlier after Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah [BBC profile] claimed to have proof that Israel was behind the bombing. Last February, the head of the STL reassured [JURIST report] the Lebanese public that the investigation is on track. When asked about the progress of the investigation into the death of Hariri, the head of the STL "underlined the fact that the Tribunal already has in place all the legal and administrative instruments necessary for its work, and is fully operational so that justice may be dispensed with complete independence and impartiality in accordance with the highest international standards." The STL was established in 2005 at the request of the Lebanese government to try those alleged to be connected to the bombing in which Hariri was killed by explosions detonated near his motorcade in Beirut.

 

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