Lebanon court's defence office seeks to assure accused
The defence office of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Tuesday it would do its utmost to ensure a fair trial for those to be charged with the 2005 murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
The defence office, created to protect the rights of defendants before the tribunal, "has put into place procedures that will allow future accused persons to be represented by counsel of their choice," it said in a statement.
The tribunal's prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, presented a confidential indictment widely believed to name Hezbollah, Lebanon's powerful Shiite movement, to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen on Monday.
But he insisted he would not reveal the charges or the names of those listed in the indictment in connection with the massive car bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on the Beirut seafront six years ago.
Hezbollah, which enjoys the backing of Iran and Syria, withdrew from the Lebanese cabinet with its allies last Wednesday, prompting the collapse of the unity government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the murdered former premier.
"The defence office will ensure that all the necessary means are made available to the defence teams so as to afford them the indispensable equality of arms with the office of the prosecutor," the statement said .
"This equality of arms obviously includes the time that will be required to prepare an effective defence."
The defence office appealed to all concerned to refrain from speculating about the identity of the suspects or the starting date of the trial, which the court's registrar Herman von Hebel earlier said may begin by September.
The tribunal's rules of procedure allow for suspects to be tried in their absence. They can be arrested even after their conviction.
© 2011 AFP