The tribunal says it has not been able to establish any direct evidence or link between a 2005 blast in Beirut that killed Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and the leadership of the Hezbollah resistance movement or the Syrian government. Opinions on the verdict predictably follow ideological lines.
Iran-based Press TV reported that the tribunal exonerated the leadership of Syria and Hezbollah:
“The so-called Special Tribunal for Lebanon (SDL) read out a summary of the 2,600-page verdict at The Hague on Tuesday after trying for 15 years and spending some $1 billion to prove allegations of association between the explosion and the Lebanese resistance movement or Damascus.”
“There is no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement,” said Judge David Re.
The report notes that Lebanon’s an-Nahar daily ran the headline, “International Justice Defeats Intimidation” before the tribunal’s decision was announced, referring to efforts by groups within and outside the country to implicate Hezbollah and the Syrian government in the crime.
Hezbollah — which has rejected the jurisdiction and independence of the court — has denied any link to or interest in the atrocity. Moreover, the resistance movement has condemned the tribunal for serving as an opportunity for Tel Aviv to achieve objectives in Lebanon that it has not been able to achieve by other means.
Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that he was not concerned about the proceedings, and that if any members of the resistance movement were claimed to be guilty, Hezbollah would stand by their innocence.
The report by Press TV then argues that the tribunal “did not stop short of echoing those who have been trying to make the unfounded allegations against the resistance group and Damascus”, referring to an obtuse declaration by Judge David Re that: “The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri and his political allies.”
Observers said the latter part of the verdict showed that the countries that forced the United Nations Security Council into forming the tribunal in the first place — based on unproven hypotheses, without any legal basis, and in violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty — were still influencing the verdicts that it issues.
The report than notes that Israel’s Channel 1 has alleged an association between four people with alleged links to Hezbollah and the 2005 explosion, and that the tribunal investigated the allegations and eventually convicted one of the four people accused, subsequently identified as ‘the main defendant’.
The report said that of the four people accused, lawyers appointed by the tribunal declared there was no physical evidence linking them to the crime and that they had to be acquitted. LINK
Under the headline ‘Hariri accepts verdict in father’s case, wants ‘just punishment’, Qatar-based Al Jazeera leads with the assertion: ‘Special Tribunal for Lebanon finds Hezbollah member guilty of assassinating ex-PM Rafik Hariri in 2005 bomb blast’
The report notes that former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said his family accepted the ‘United Nations-backed’ tribunal’s verdict in the case of his father’s assassination.
“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Tuesday found Salim Ayyash, a member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, guilty of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri along with 21 others in a massive bomb blast in Beirut.
Three other Hezbollah suspects were cleared.”
The international court, located near The Hague, Netherlands, decided that the attack was a politically motivated “act of terrorism designed to cause fear in the Lebanese population”.
After the decision was announced Hariri stated.
“I think that today the court has shown high credibility, showing that this court is not politicised.”
Hariri further said his father was assassinated “because he was against the policy of the regime in Syria and he wanted to take this regime out of Lebanon”.
… The four members of Hezbollah were accused of organising and carrying out the attack, although the Iran-backed group was not formally charged and denied any involvement.
Hariri said those who assassinated his father aimed to “change the face of Lebanon and its system and its civilised identity” and said there will be “no compromise” on this matter. LINK
The Jerusalem Post featured a report by Reuters on the matter. The report notes:
Some Lebanese, including victims waiting 15 years for justice, voiced disbelief at the verdict that acquitted three other Hezbollah members and found no evidence of the involvement of the leadership of Hezbollah or the Syrian government.
I am shocked. Instead of the network (of culprits) expanding, it is now one superman who has done all of that?” said Sanaa al Sheikh, who was wounded in the Feb. 14, 2005 bomb blast on Beirut’s waterfront that killed Hariri. She added that she had never expected an outcome like this.
There was only silence from Hezbollah, which denies any involvement in the bomb attack that also killed 21 other people. Fireworks were briefly heard in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s Shi’ite Muslim southern suburbs.
The former prime minister’s son, Saad al-Hariri, ‘also a former premier’, spoke outside the tribunal in The Hague:
“(For) the first time in Lebanon’s history of many political assassinations, the Lebanese find out the truth,” Hariri said.
“The importance of this historic moment is the message for those that committed this terrorist crime and those who planned it: that the age of using crimes for political aims with impunity and without paying any cost is over.”
The report then notes that the sentencing of Salim Jamil Ayyash, who was tried in absentia and convicted of having played a central role in the execution of the attack, will be carried out later, and concludes with a final accusation and implicit threat:
“We tell everybody: nobody expect any more sacrifices from us. We have sacrificed what is dearest to us…Hezbollah is the one that should make sacrifices today,” Saad al-Hariri said.
“It has become clear that the executing network is from within (Hezbollah’s) ranks. They think that justice will not reach them and that the punishment will not be served on them. I repeat: we will not rest until punishment is served.” LINK
Now that the billion dollar tribunal has concluded without really concluding anything, each party has been able to draw its own conclusions consistent with what they already suspected or knew.
The next major judicial and forensic challenge for Lebanon, and one of supreme importance for the future of what remains of the State, will be the investigation of the blast at the port in Beirut. No matter what the final verdict is, it is also destined to be manipulated and politicized beyond recognition by many or all of the parties involved or implicated.
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