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Hariri Tribunal Snubs Early Acquittal Request by ‘Hezbollah’ Suspect’s Lawyer

Hariri Tribunal Snubs Early Acquittal Request by ‘Hezbollah’ Suspect’s Lawyer

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 13:15
The building housing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague. AFP file photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Wednesday that the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri in February 2005 was a terrorist act, and stressed that evidence presented by prosecutors "could" lead to the convictions of four “Hezbollah” suspects.

The bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others on the Beirut seafront was a terrorist act, judges at the UN-backed court in the Hague said in a ruling.

The STL also said that evidence presented by prosecutors "could" lead to the convictions of the four suspects who remain at large and are being tried in absentia. That means their lawyers must present their defenses.

Prosecutors rested their case last month. Lawyers for one of the suspects, Hassan Oneissi, had asked for early acquittal, saying all evidence against him was circumstantial and that the prosecution had failed to link him to the case.

But Judge Janet Nosworthy said that evidence, including cell phone records presented by prosecutors, showed Oneissi may have been involved in an elaborate attempt to blame the attack on a fictional terrorist group.

It also could imply he knew the attack itself was being prepared.

"The trial chamber has sufficient evidence from which it could convict Mr. Oneissi of his involvement in the attack on Mr. Hariri," she said.

The court ordered an organizational meeting with all defense lawyers for Thursday.

Defense lawyers for the other suspects, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi and Assad Hassan Sabra, did not seek early acquittal.

Elsewhere in the decision, Presiding Judge David Re said the attack was an act of terrorism, intended to sow fear among the Lebanese people, and could only have been carried out by a sophisticated group, with intricate planning over a long period of time.

In July 2016, the STL overturned an earlier decision to try in absentia Mustafa Badreddine, a “Hezbollah” military chief who was killed in Syria months earlier.

The Appeals Chamber found by a majority that sufficient evidence had been presented to establish the Badreddine’s death.

The STL had launched proceedings against Badreddine and the four other “Hezbollah" suspects in January 2014. 

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