Lebanon urged to boost efforts for arrest of Hariri killing suspects
The Lebanese government must bolster efforts to arrest five men accused of the assassination of the country’s former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, the prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon told British newspaper the Guardian on Friday.
Canadian veteran lawyer, Norman Farrell, will be presenting the opening evidence against the five men indicted for the murder of Hariri and 21 others in a bomb attack in Beirut on Valentine’s Day in 2005.
The five suspects in the long-awaited trial are supporters of Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and the court is trying them in absentia at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague.
“Despite the fact that we are starting trial we should not lose sight of the fact that we need to continue to intensify efforts to arrest. The trial in absentia is only the second-best option. The evidence will be the focus of the trial. That can’t be an excuse or a justification to simply ignore the fact that the accused have not been arrested.”
The bomb, in a Mitsubishi van filled with the equivalent of 2.5 tons of high explosive, was detonated by a still unidentified suicide bomber. The blast ripped through a busy street, wounding 226 other people and destroying a nearby hotel. Hezbollah denies any role in killing Hariri, a billionaire Sunni Muslim politician
“We are not indicting Hezbollah’s position,” Farrell said. “We are proceeding against the five accused. Their [Hezbollah’s] statements are not matters that affect my decision-making.”
Evidence in the trial will focus on the massive explosion that targeted Hariri’s motorcade, then on communications analysis, which the prosecutor described as an important component of the case and the third part would link the accused to the killing, the newspaper reported.
“The voices of the victims will be heard – and heard in an open international forum,” Farrell said. “The trial is a mechanism of accountability and if there is a conviction, of course there will be a sense of some justice. I am not saying that it is perfect justice. But it is some justice.”
In the 35-page indictment, prosecutors used mobile phone records to detail how suspects Hassan Habib Merhi and Mustafa Amine Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah figure, allegedly worked with Salim Jamil Ayyash, another suspect, to monitor Hariri’s movements over the final weeks of his life.
The trial for four of the suspects, described in the indictment as “supporters of Hezbollah,” is due to begin Thursday.