Prosecutor submits indictment in Hariri probe: tribunal

17th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon submitted a confidential indictment Monday against suspects in the 2005 murder of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, the tribunal said.

"The prosecutor of the tribunal has submitted an indictment and supporting materials to the pre-trial judge," the tribunal said in a statement in The Hague, where it is based for security reasons.

"The contents of the indictment remain confidential at this stage".

Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare turned over the documents, widely believed to implicate Hezbollah, to the tribunal's registry at 4:35pm (1535 GMT), said the statement.

They "will now be reviewed by the pre-trial judge, Daniel Fransen", who has to confirm the charges before any arrest warrant or summons to appear can be issued.

The STL was created at Lebanon's request by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution to find and try the killers of Hariri, assassinated in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005 that also killed 22 other people.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Sunday the group would "defend" itself against likely charges by the tribunal, which it said was a tool of the United States and Israel.

The Shiite militant group, which enjoys the backing of Iran and Syria, withdrew from the Lebanese cabinet last Wednesday in protest against the ongoing UN-backed investigation, prompting the collapse of the unity government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the murdered premier.

Talks on naming a new premier were postponed earlier on Monday as the leaders of Syria, Turkey and Qatar threw their weight behind mediation by Damascus and Riyadh to resolve the political crisis in Lebanon.

The pre-trial judge should need six to 10 weeks to confirm the charges, tribunal registrar Herman von Hebel told journalists in The Hague in December.

He could also decide to reject the indictment in whole or in part, or ask the prosecutor for additional information.

A trial could follow "four to six months" after the confirmation of the charges, according to Von Hebel.

The STL's rules allows for a trial to be held "in absentia", meaning without the accused being present, if arrests are impossible.

Hezbollah, "Party of God" in Arabic, has warned the group will "cut off the hand" of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members for the Hariri killing, raising fears of renewed Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence, 20 years after the end of a 15-year civil war.

The tribunal opened its doors in The Hague in 2009, four years after Hariri's murder triggered a political crisis that caused the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence in Lebanon.

Damascus has consistently denied involvement in the killing.

© 2011 AFP

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