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Middle East
Syria orders arrests in Hariri case
Warrants issued for 33 people over "false testimony" to investigators in 2005 case of former Lebanese PM's slaying.
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2010 05:55 GMT
Jamil al-Sayyed accused Lebanon's judiciary of supporting fabricated evidence in the Hariri investigation [EPA]

Syria has issued arrest warrants for more than 30 people accused of misleading an investigation into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, according to a Syrian lawyer.

A judge in Damascus made the order on Sunday after repeated state summons for the people concerned were ignored, lawyer Fasih al-Ashi told The Associated Press news agency.

Al-Ashi represents Jamil al-Sayyed, a former Lebanese army general, who was one of four pro-Syrian officers jailed without charge for nearly four years in connection with the 2005 slaying of Rafiq Hariri.

Al-Sayyed was arrested shortly after the February 2005 bombing which killed Hariri and 22 others.

The special tribunal investigating the attack ordered his release last year because of lack of evidence.

Al-Sayyed then filed the suit against people he said misled the investigation. He brought the case against them in Syria because he said he did not trust Lebanon's judiciary, which he has accused of supporting "false witnesses".

In a statement issued on Sunday, his office said those on Syria's wanted list included senior Lebanese judges, politicians and journalists.

One of them is Detlev Mehlis, a German prosecutor who led the early stages of the UN investigation into Hariri's killing, the statement said.

Heightened tensions

The warrants are unlikely to be executed outside of Syria.

Syria's warrants come amid heightened tensions and an escalating political crisis in Lebanon, stoked by the possibility that the Netherlands-based court probing the Hariri slaying could indict some Hezbollah members in the case.

Ashraf Rifi, the Lebanese police chief and one of the 33 people named by al-Sayyed's office, dismissed al-Sayyed's announcement.

"We will work to prevent the implementation of these warrants, which violate... Lebanese sovereignty," he told the Reuters news agency.

Both Syria and Hezbollah deny any involvement in the killing and say the UN investigation has been politicised and poisoned by fabricated evidence.

Tensions have increased over media reports that the indictments could be issued as early as this month.

Source:
Agencies
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