The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) will rule on Tuesday in the trial of four men accused of taking part in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. The decision comes two weeks after the August 4 explosion that ravaged Beirut.
The UN-backed Lebanese Special Court (STL) will rule on Tuesday (August 18) in the trial of four Lebanese Hezbollah members accused of taking part in the bombing that claimed Hezbollah’s lives. the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. The long-awaited verdict is due two weeks after the devastating explosion on August 4 in Beirut.
The Dutch-based STL had postponed the reading of the verdict, originally scheduled for August 7, “out of respect for the countless victims” of the devastating explosion three days earlier in the port of the Lebanese capital, resulting in fewer 177 deaths and more than 6,500 injured. .
The STL judges will make their decision in the absence of suspects, all suspected members of the Shiite Hezbollah movement: none of the defendants have been handed over to the court, they are tried in absentia, more than 15 years after the attack in central Beirut that had caused death of Rafic Hariri and 21 others.
According to his team, Saad Hariri, son of Rafic Hariri and also a former Lebanese prime minister, will take part in the announcement of the verdict scheduled for 11:00 (09:00 GMT) in Leidschendam, near The Hague. In a statement in late July, he said he hoped the reading of the verdict “will be a day of truth and justice for Lebanon” and said he “has never given up hope of international justice”.
The murder “had a political purpose”
Rafik Hariri, Prime Minister until his resignation in October 2004, was killed in February 2005, when a suicide bomber blew up a van full of explosives as his armored convoy passed by the beach in Beirut, leaving 226 wounded.
His death, in which four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were accused of being involved, sparked protests at the time. This led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after almost 30 years of presence in Lebanon.
During the trial, the prosecutor insisted that the assassination of Rafic Hariri “had a political purpose” and argued that the Sunni millionaire “was perceived as a serious threat by pro-Syrians and pro-Hezbollah”.
However, Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian regime and Iran, has denied any responsibility, saying it does not recognize the STL.
Lebanese “have other problems”
The tribunal, set up following the UN Security Council resolution, “has been very controversial”, while the Lebanese remain “deeply divided” about it, according to Karim Bitar, a professor of international relations in Paris and Beirut. But they “have so many other problems that they tend to look at it with one shoulder on their shoulders, except for those who are directly affected,” he told AFP a few days before the double explosion. at the port of Beirut.
In recent days, thousands of residents have expressed their anger at the authorities after the explosion caused by a fire in a warehouse that has held about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for six years.
The catastrophe resulted in the resignation of the Lebanese government, as the country has been plunged into a very serious economic crisis for months.
The main suspect in the case, Salim Ayyash, 56, is accused of “intentional murder” and of being the leader of the team that carried out the attack. Two other men, Hussein Oneissi, 46, and Assad Sabra, 43, are particularly charged with recording a fake videotape claiming responsibility for the crime on behalf of a fictional group. The last suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, 54, is also facing several charges, such as complicity in a terrorist act and conspiracy to commit this act.
If convicted, the four accused in the murder of Rafic Hariri face life in prison. The verdict will be announced at a later date, and the prosecutor, as well as the defense, can appeal the verdict.
Moustafa Badreddine, the main suspect described as the “mainstay” of the attack by investigators, has since died and has therefore not been tried.
Last year, the STL opened a separate case in which it accused one of the suspects, Salim Ayyash, of three other attacks on politicians in 2004 and 2005.