Leidschendam (Netherlands), August 18
Judges at a UN-backed tribunal stated on Tuesday that there was no proof that the management of the Hezbollah militant group or Syria had been concerned within the 2005 suicide truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Sketching the advanced political backdrop for the assassination, Presiding Judge David Re of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon stated that within the months earlier than his demise, Hariri was a supporter of lowering the affect of Syria in Lebanon and that of Hezbollah in Syria.
He stated judges who studied reams of proof within the trial of 4 Hezbollah members accused of involvement within the bombing had been “of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri, and some of his political allies.”
But he added that there was no proof that “Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder, and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement in it.”
Re was talking as he delivered the ultimate judgments within the trial. The court docket was not anticipated to rule on both Hezbollah or Syria because the tribunal can solely accuse people, not teams or states.
The verdicts had been delayed by practically two weeks as a mark of respect for victims of one other devastating explosion — the detonation of practically 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate saved at Beirut’s port.
The August four blast killed round 180 individuals, injured greater than 6,000, left 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 with houses unfit to stay in and plunged a nation already reeling from financial and social malaise even deeper into disaster.
Re began the listening to with a minute’s silence to honour victims of the blast and their households in addition to these made homeless by the port blast.
He was studying a abstract of the written judgment that runs to greater than 2,600 pages with some 13,000 footnotes.
Guilty verdicts might compound tensions within the tiny nation. Hariri was Lebanon’s most distinguished Sunni politician on the time of his February 14, 2005, assassination, whereas the Iran-backed Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim group.
The trial centred on the alleged roles of 4 Hezbollah members within the suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others and wounded 226 individuals. Prosecutors primarily based their case largely on knowledge from cellphones allegedly utilized by the plotters to plan and execute the bombing.
Without the cellphone knowledge there can be no case in opposition to the 4 suspects, Re stated, as he started explaining the advanced investigation into the telecom networks prosecutors say the suspects used.
Re stated that the telecom proof within the case was “almost entirely circumstantial”.
However, one other decide, Janet Nosworthy, later stated that judges had dominated that 4 completely different networks of cellphones “were interconnected and coordinated with each other, and operated as covert networks at the relevant times”.
During the trial, which began in 2014 and spanned 415 days of hearings, the tribunal in Leidschendam, close to The Hague, heard proof from 297 witnesses.
Initially, 5 suspects had been tried, all of them Hezbollah members. Charges in opposition to one of many group’s high navy commanders, Mustafa Badreddine, had been dropped after he was killed in Syria in 2016.
The remaining suspects are Salim Ayyash, also called Abu Salim; Assad Sabra, Hassan Oneissi, who modified his title to Hassan Issa and Hassan Habib Merhi. They are charged with offenses together with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.
If they’re convicted, hearings can be held at a later date to find out their sentences.
As the UN-backed court docket has no demise sentence, the utmost sentence is life imprisonment.
None of the lads could be very more likely to serve time as Hezbollah has vowed to not hand over any suspects. Prosecutors and defence legal professionals can attraction the verdicts.
The assassination was seen by many in Lebanon because the work of Syria, a cost Damascus denies and which the judges now say was not borne out by proof within the trial.
Some Lebanese see the tribunal as an neutral method of uncovering the reality about Hariri’s slaying, whereas Hezbollah — which denies involvement — calls it an Israeli plot to tarnish the group.
Hariri’s son Saad, himself a former prime minister, is attending the day-long supply of the judgment and was considered one of 4 victims current within the courtroom for the listening to. AP