Prosecutor files expanded indictment in Hariri probe

11th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prosecutors of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon filed an amended indictment on Friday based on further evidence in the probe into the 2005 killing of then Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, the tribunal said.

"As a result of the gathering and analysis of further evidence, the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Daniel A. Bellemare today filed an amended indictment for confirmation by the pre-trial judge," a tribunal statement said.

"This amendment expands on the scope of the indictment filed on 17 January 2011 in connection with the attack on former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and others on 14 February 2005."

The original indictment, which is being kept confidential, is under examination by Belgian judge Daniel Fransen who has the responsibility of confirming it before arrest warrants or summonses are issued.

"The possibility for the prosecutor to amend an indictment, without leave, at any time before its confirmation, is specifically provided for by... the tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence," the statement said.

Bellemare has asked for the secrecy surrounding the January 17 indictment to be extended to the amended version.

Non-authorised divulging could be an obstacle to justice and a contempt of court, the tribunal statement said.

The tribunal was set up in The Hague in 2009 by the United Nations to try those alleged to have carried out the massive car bomb attack that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut.

The tribunal said earlier this month it hoped to start "at least pre-trial and some trial proceedings" this year, its third in operation.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon "should endeavour to complete the submission of indictments" in its third year, starting March 1, STL president Antonio Cassese wrote in an annual report.

"The end of investigations with a view to submitting indictments by February 29, 2012, would allow us to begin with maximum alacrity, already in this third year, at least pre-trial and some trial proceedings."

This would allow the tribunal to complete its core mandate within a total of six years, Cassese said.

But it said earlier this month that examination of the charges, backed up by thousands of pages of documents and conducted by a small team, "could take longer than expected".

In December a court official said that six to 10 weeks would be necessary. But now "we are talking about months rather than weeks" before examination of the charges is finished, a tribunal official said.

"The investigation continues in order to meet the evidentiary threshold required at trial and to be able to bring to justice others who may be involved,"the tribunal statement said.

Its first indictment, filed by Bellemare on January 17, is widely believed to name the Hezbollah militant group.

Hezbollah says the court is being used by the United States and Israel.

The Shiite party, which is supported by Iran and Syria, in January toppled the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri -- the slain leader's son -- after he rejected their pressure to cut ties with the tribunal.

Hariri hinted Friday that Hezbollah was "afraid of the truth" in the murder of his father.

"Why are you afraid of the truth," he asked, speaking before politicians and journalists at his Beirut residence.

"Are they afraid of the truth about the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the truth about those who are behind the assassination of the martyrs?" he said, in a reference to mostly anti-Syrian political and media figures who have been killed over the last years.

Hariri supporters have called for a rally Sunday to reject Hezbollah's pressure.

"Every Lebanese man and woman wants to live under the rule of law and not that of arms," said Hariri.

© 2011 AFP

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