Hariri case indictment names 4 in Hezbollah
BEIRUT - The United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister in 2005 released the full indictment yesterday against members of Hezbollah named in the killing, a move that could exacerbate tensions in a country polarized by the repercussions of the investigation.
Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim movement that is the most powerful single actor in the country, has long denied involvement in the assassination of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, which redrew the country’s political map and led to years of discord and strife.
But many in Lebanon have feared that details of the indictment - how the assassination was actually carried out on a seaside corniche in the capital - would deepen the many divisions here.
The indictment will almost surely serve as fodder for both sides in the debate.
It relies heavily on phone records and offers circumstantial evidence. Prosecutors acknowledged they have no smoking gun in the case.
Hezbollah and Lebanese officials have long said Israel has penetrated Lebanon’s telecommunications network; two senior employees of one cellphone company were arrested last year for spying.
The tribunal’s prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, said in a statement that unsealing the 47-page indictment “answers many questions.’’
“The full story will, however, only unfold in the courtroom, where an open, public, fair, and transparent trial will render a final verdict,’’ Bellemare said.
Hezbollah has contended that the tribunal is a sham, hopelessly manipulated by the United States and Israel, and it has successfully discredited the investigation in the eyes of its supporters and allies.
But that sentiment is by no means universal, and supporters of Saad Hariri, the son of the slain prime minister, as well as Hezbollah’s foes here have held up the court as a question of justice, backing the investigation and its findings.
The tribunal delivered indictments June 30 against four men whom Hezbollah has acknowledged as members of the organization.
Nearly no one here expected the warrants to be served or the men to be arrested, and Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, almost taunted officials who might think of trying to detain them.
“No Lebanese government will be able to carry out any arrests, whether in 30 days, 60 days, one year, two years, 30 years, or even 300 years,’’ he said in July.
He called it a trial in absentia, whose verdict “has already been reached.’’
The most prominent of the four members is Moustapha Badreddine, a brother-in-law of Imad Moughnieh, a shadowy Hezbollah commander killed in 2007 and blamed for some of the group’s most spectacular acts of violence.
Among them was the 1983 bombing of the US Marines barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 American service members.
Hariri was killed along with 22 others when his motorcade was bombed.
A Sunni Muslim, he was admired by supporters for helping rebuild Lebanon, especially Beirut, after its 15-year civil war ended in 1990.