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Prosecutors urge Lebanon tribunal not to initiate trial in absentia

Prosecutors at the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website] urged the judge Friday to wait to commence the trial in absentia [press release] of four Hezbollah members indicted for killing former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The STL has faced great difficulty [Reuters report] trying to arrest the members of Hezbollah in Lebanon where the Shiite militia Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is the country's most powerful political force. Hezbollah has denied involvement in the suicide bombing on February 14, 2005, which killed Hariri in addition to 22 other people. If the trial commences, this would be the first trial in absentia since the prosecution of Nazis during the Nuremberg trials.

In October, a judge for the STL asked [JURIST report] that the Trial Chamber initiate proceedings in absentia. 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 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 a resolution to establish an ad hoc international tribunal to investigate and try suspects in the assassination of Hariri.

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