An international tribunal on Friday issued five life sentences to Salim Jamil Ayyash, a Hezbollah member who was convicted in absentia in August for the assassination of former Lebanon prime minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.
Hariri was killed in a massive suicide bomb explosion in Beirut which also killed twenty-one other people and injured 226. Ayyash and three others were charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, intentional homicide, attempted intentional homicide, and other charges. However, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon unanimously acquitted the three co-conspirators due to insufficient evidence. The tribunal agreed with the prosecution’s request to impose five life sentences, one for each count against Ayyash.
In pronouncing sentence, the tribunal announced that the attack had been political. While there was no direct evidence, they found the attack “most probably had to have involved state actors,” with the most likely state actor being Syria. Ayyash is affiliated with Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militant group that is allied with Syria. In a concurring opinion attached to the judgment, Judge David Re cited a speech the secretary-general of Hezbollah made in 2011, following the announcement of charges against Ayyash and the other accused, calling them “four honourable resistance men,” and how in another speech he indirectly threatened the Special Tribunal should it attempt to arrest or detain any Hezbollah members. Noting that Ayyash is still at large, Judge Re concluded that a “strong inference” can be made “as to who has been shielding him from justice for all these years.”
The Special Tribunal also noted that few of the victims of the attack have received any sort of compensation. However, the tribunal has no mechanism to issue compensation or reparations. The judges recommended that Lebanon set up a national compensation scheme, not just for victims of this attack, but for “victims of crime generally.”
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