A U.N.-backed tribunal on Tuesday said there was no evidence that Hassan Nasrallah or Baschar al-Assad were involved in the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The UN dropped a second bomb on Lebanon. As deadly as the first that exploded on August 4 at the port in Beirut.
Four members of the Iran-backed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah are charged with conspiracy to carry out the massive bomb attack that killed Hariri and 21 other people.
Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire, had close ties with the United States, Western and Sunni Gulf Arab allies. Both Iran and Syria considered him a threat to their influence in Lebanon. He led efforts to rebuild Beirut following the 1975-1990 civil war. Rafik Hariri remains one of the best politicians the country of Lebanon has ever witnessed.
Judge David Re, reading a summary of the court’s decision, said:
The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr Hariri and his political allies, however, 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.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the Feb. 14, 2005 bombing. As Assad denied dropping sarin gas on Syrian women and children.
[/su_pullquote]Rafik Hariri remains one of the best politicians the country of Lebanon has ever witnessed[/su_pullquote]
THE UN DROPPED A SECOND BOMB ON LEBANON
The reading of the verdict by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which began on Tuesday is expected to take several hours. It comes as Lebanese are still reeling from the aftermath of a huge explosion that killed 178 people this month ; in addition to an economic meltdown that has shattered their lives. The STL verdict represents a second bomb on Lebanon.
Hariri’s assassination plunged Lebanon into what was then its worst crisis since the war, setting the stage for years of confrontation between rival political forces.
Even before judges began reading their 2,600 page verdict into the Hariri’s killing, Lebanon’s an-Nahar daily ran a headline: ‘International Justice Defeats Intimidation’.
The paper published a caricature of Hariri’s face looking at a mushroom cloud over the devastated city, with a caption:
“May you also (get justice)”
It referred to an investigation that could unveil the cause of the blast.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday he was not concerned with the trial and that if any members of the group were convicted, it would stand by their innocence.
Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV and the pro-Damascus Al Mayadeen channel did not cover the trial, which other broadcasters in Lebanon were airing live.
Beirut tour guide Nada Nammour, 54, speaking before the reading of the verdict began, said the 2005 bombing was a crime that the perpetrators should pay for committing.
Lebanon needs to see law and justice.
Her seven words fell on deaf ears at the top leadership at Turtle Bay.
The verdict in The Hague may further polarize the already divided country and complicate an already tumultuous situation after the Aug. 4 blast at Beirut port, where authorities say ammonium nitrate stored unsafely detonated, fueling public outrage and leading to the government’s resignation.
Harri’s killing removed a powerful Sunni leader and allowed the further political expansion of Shi’ite Hezbollah power. This is called motive in any other court, except the UN’s.
JUSTICE 15 YEARS ON
Lebanon expected then judgment earlier this month, but the UN delayed it after the port explosion. Two simultaneous bombs would have been too much.
The investigation and trial in absentia of the four Hezbollah members has taken 15 years and cost roughly $1 billion. It could result in a guilty verdict and later sentencing of up to life imprisonment, or acquittal.
DNA evidence showed that a male suicide bomber carried out the mission that killed Hariri. No one could identify him.
Prosecutors used cell phone records to argue the men on trial, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Assad Hassan Sabra and Hussein Hassan Oneissi, carefully monitored Hariri’s movements in the months leading up to the attack to time it and to put forward a fake claim of responsibility as a diversion.
Lawyers appointed by the court said there is no physical evidence linking the four to the crime. They asked for their acquittal. It is possible, according to this verdict, that Rafik Hariri may have committed suicide.
Hariri’s son Saad, who took his father’s mantle as premier three times, has said he was not seeking revenge. But he asked for justice. The UN ignores him. The vile Mohammad bin Salman beat Saad Hariri and stripped him of his money.
Some Lebanese say they are now more concerned with finding out the truth behind the Beirut port blast.
Francois, a volunteer helping victims in a ruined district, said:
I do want to know what the verdict is … but what matters now is who did this (port blast) to us because this touched more people.
Reuters contributed to this article.