Judge in Hariri assassination to visit Lebanon 'this week'

21st November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The new head of a UN-backed court probing the murder of Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, for which four Hezbollah members are accused, will travel to Lebanon this week the court said Monday.

It will be the first visit to Lebanon by Baragwanath in his role as head of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), a post he assumed after his predecessor Antonio Cassese died of cancer last month.

"During his visit, President (David) Baragwanath will meet Lebanons president and other Lebanese authorities who work with the tribunal as well as agencies and members of the academic and legal community," the tribunal said in a statement.

Baragwanath will be accompanied by his deputy, Ralph Riachi of Lebanon, on the visit "this week," the said without specifying dates.

The news came after the defence chief of the Hague-based court asked judges earlier this month to lift the arrest warrants against the four accused of the killing, who remain at large.

The STL, created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution at Lebanon's request, opened its doors in 2009, tasked with trying those suspected of killing Hariri and 22 others in a massive car-bombing on February 14, 2005.

On October 17 the STL said it had been asked to decide whether to try the four Hezbollah members accused in the case in absentia. The decision remains pending.

The STL is the only international court that has a mandate to try suspects in absentia. If it did so it would be the first such occurrence since the post-World War II Nazi trials at Nuremberg.

A previous Beirut government, led by Hariri's son Saad, cooperated with the tribunal, but in January Hezbollah toppled that Western-backed coalition, largely over its support for the special tribunal.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the STL as a US-Israeli conspiracy and vowed that no member of Hezbollah would ever be found or arrested.

© 2011 AFP

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