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Middle East
UN criticises Hariri tribunal leaks
Spokesman says Canadian report of Hezbollah links to the killing of Lebanon's former PM could harm UN investigation.
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2010 22:31 GMT
The assassination of al-Hariri in 2005 plunged Lebanon into its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war [EPA]

A United Nations spokesman has expressed concern that the world body special tribunal's investigation into the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, could be influenced by a Canadian media report.

In a report based on leaks, Canadian broadcaster CBC has said that evidence gathered by Lebanese police and later by UN-backed investigators strongly linked the Hezbollah group to the 2005 killing.

Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman commenting on the report on Monday, said "it is a matter of concern that the leaks could have an effect on the substance of the work by the prosecutors and the tribunal itself,"

"Certainly leaks are matters of concern. We want to be able to ensure that the special tribunal on Lebanon can go about its work without hindrance or interference," Haq told reporters.

He would not comment on the details published by CBC. The UN has asked CBC to give information on the documents it obtained "so we can assess them," Haq added.

'Hit squad'

CBC News said on Sunday it had obtained mobile telephone and other telecommunications evidence which is at the core of the case.

It said that in 2007 the investigators asked a British firm to analyse telephone calls made in Lebanon in 2005.

"What the British analyst showed them [the UN investigators] was nothing less than the hit squad that had carried out the murder, or at least the phones they had been carrying at the time," CBC News said.

Hezbollah said on Monday it had no comment on the CBC News report.

The report is close to one published by German magazine Der Spiegel in 2009 in which it cited information it had obtained saying that investigators believed Hezbollah was behind al-Hariri's killing.

The magazine also said Lebanese investigators had found a link between eight mobile phones used in the area at the time of the attack and a network of 20 other phones believed to belong to Hezbollah's "operative arm".

Several media reports have said that the UN tribunal is close to announcing indictments against Hezbollah members for the killing.

Indictments expected

Hezbollah, which is part of a unity government led by al-Hariri's son Saad, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing, and has called for a boycott of the tribunal's work.

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, has said he will not allow the arrest of any of the group's members.

Lebanese politicians have expressed fears of a new explosion of violence if Hezbollah members are indicted.

Michael Williams, UN special co-ordinator for Lebanon, said last week that he expected indictments to be issued "in the coming months."

Al-Hariri's assassination in a massive explosion in Beirut on February 14, 2005, plunged Lebanon into its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, with Sunni-Shia tensions threatening to boil over into a civil war.

Source:
Agencies
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