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Lebanon tribunal judge asks for trial in absentia

A judge for the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website] on Monday asked [materials, in French] that the Trial Chamber initiate proceedings in absentia for four wanted suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri [JURIST news archive]. Pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen [official profile], in accordance with STL rules, waited 30 calendar days after public announcement of the indictment before making the formal request, the prescribed next step in the process. The Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah [JURIST news archive] has denied any responsibility [Reuters report] over the bombing, which killed Hariri and 21 other people in Beirut, and said it will not allow the suspects to be arrested.

The indictment was unsealed in August, and the STL president has made a public plea for the four men to turn themselves in [JURIST reports]. In 2007, the UN Security Council approved [UN News Centre report] a resolution to establish an ad hoc international tribunal to investigate and try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of Hariri. The move passed in a 10-0 vote, with China, Russia, Indonesia, Qatar and South Africa abstaining. The abstaining nations objected in part to the resolution's establishment under Chapter VII of the UN Charter [text], which allows for military enforcement if necessary. The controversial proposal, supported by then Lebanese prime minister Fuad Siniora but opposed [JURIST comment] by pro-Syrian former president Emile Lahoud [JURIST news archive], was a source of major disagreement in Lebanon's deeply sectarian political arena.

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