The pre-trial judge for the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website; UN backgrounder] on Monday transferred [press release] the case files for Ayyash et al. [case materials] to the trial chamber, marking the start of the transition to the trial phase. Four Hezbollah [CFR backgrounder] militants were indicted in 2011 on charges including terrorism and intentional homicide in a 2005 truck bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafil Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and 21 others. The trial is tentatively scheduled to begin January 13, 2014. However, now that the pre-trial judge has completed the transfer of the entire case file, it is up to the trial chamber to confirm a final date for the start of the trial.
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. Last July the STL confirmed its jurisdiction [JURIST report] 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.