The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) begins on September 10 the trials of four members of the “Hezbollah” security apparatus accused of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
This final phase will be devoted to the pleadings of the STL Prosecutor Norman Farrell, the representatives of the victims and the defense team for the accused, following which the tribunal will study the evidence and closing arguments and issue its final verdict four years after the beginning of the public trials.
Hezbollah anticipated this important event, with its secretary general warning against “playing with fire.”
Hassan Nasrallah called for not linking the formation of the government with the final verdict of the STL, saying: “Frankly and clearly, the tribunal does not exist and its decisions do not concern us at all, do not play with fire ... Do not play with fire.”
Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Trial Chamber President, Judge David Re, has given Farrell and his team three days to present his arguments and evidence, and a similar time for the team of those affected by the crime, and then two days for the defense lawyers of each of the four defendants.
The accused currently facing trial in absentia are Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. They are charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, along with a number of other related charges.
The UN Security Council classified Hariri’s assassination in February 2005 as a "terrorist" crime, appointed an international commission of inquiry, and then established the STL for the prosecution of the accused.
The sources described the ruling as “historic”.
“It will be a strong verdict based on irrefutable evidence that cannot be questioned or politicized,” they said.
Meanwhile, Legal Expert Antoine Saad told Asharq Al-Awsat that Nasrallah’s recent warnings have indicated that he did not believe in the logic of institutions or national and international justice.
He noted that Nasrallah “is trying to pressure Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri by all means, starting with the file of the displaced Syrians to the normalization of relations with the Syrian regime and reaching the Special Tribunal.”
For his part, the coordinator of the General Secretariat of the March 14 coalition, former MP Fares Soeid said that the Hezbollah chief’s threats were not directed towards the international community, but towards the Lebanese people.
“Nasrallah’s threat affects politicians and free media figures, who do not enjoy political and security protection at the internal or external levels,” he noted.