A pre-trial judge for the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon [official website; UN backgrounder] on Thursday delayed the trial [decision, PDF, in French] of four Hezbollah [CFR backgrounder] militants charged with the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Counsel for the accused requested the delay [motion, PDF] in January citing pre-trial issues including alleged incomplete disclosure by prosecutors, insufficiency of evidence and pre-trial briefs, technical and translation issues regarding disclosed material, and the continued absence of the accused. Judge Daniel Fransen agreed that the prosecution had failed to adequately disclose essential materials to the defense and reasoned that enforcing the original trial date would not allow adequate preparation time required by fundamental notions of due process. According to the STL, Fransen has requested [press release] that the prosecution, defense and victims' representatives submit documents detailing trial-preparedness by March 8, whereupon a new "tentative" date will replace the original March 2013 trial date.
Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra [STL profiles] are charged in absentia with involvement in a 2005 truck bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others. In July the STL confirmed its jurisdiction over the trials of the alleged assassins. Earlier that month the STL upheld [JURIST report] the decision to try the four accused in absentia. The tribunal rejected a defense motion challenging the legality and jurisdiction over the case. The STL could not find any error of legal reasoning in the February 2012 decision that could lead to unjust treatment of the four accused. In February 2012 the STL granted [JURIST report] the prosecution's office permission to proceed with the case against the four accused assassins. The court reasoned that the prosecution and the national authorities have undertaken all reasonable steps to apprehend and inform the accused. In August 2011 the STL announced [JURIST report] that it would investigate three additional bombings that is believed to be connected to the February 2005 bomb attack. Two days earlier, the UN-backed tribunal unsealed [JURIST report] the indictment against the accused assassins after a pre-trial judge confirmed the indictment and ordered the lift of confidentiality. In June 2011 the STL released [JURIST report] the indictment along with an arrest warrant against the accused to local authorities.