Hariri indictments set for Monday

Tribunal to present chargesheet with Lebanon in political turmoil over possible charges against Hezbollah members.

    The indictments come as caretaker prime minister Saad al-Hariri's government is dealing with a political crisis [Reuters]

    Prosecutors investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri are expected to issue indictments in the case on Monday.

    Members of the Hezbollah movement, which with its allies pulled out of the unity government on Wednesday over the prime minister's stance on the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), are expected to be named in the chargesheet.

    Daniel Bellemare, the prosector for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon based in The Hague, is due to submit the chargesheet to a pre-trial judge on Monday, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on Saturday.

    Boutros Harb, the acting labour minister, confirmed the report.

    "According to my information, the chargesheet will be submitted on Monday," he told the AFP news agency.

    Tribunal silent

    According to the tribunal's rules of procedure, Daniel Fransen, the pre-trial judge, will examine the findings before confirming the indictment. Arrest warrants or summonses would be issued later and the process could take six to 10 weeks.

    The STL declined to comment on the report.

    IN DEPTH


     Profile: Rafiq al-Hariri
     Timeline: Al-Hariri investigation
     Focus: Lebanon simmers as Hazbollah braces
     Focus: Split remains over Hariri tribunal
     Inside Story: Hezbollah talks tough

    "We will say it has been done the day it has been done, we won't announce when this is going to take place," spokesman Crispin Thorold told AFP.

    The pending indictments have split Lebanon's unity government, pitting the powerful Shia party Hezbollah against a Western-backed camp led by Saad al-Hariri, the prime minister and son of Rafiq al-Hariri.

    Hezbollah has said it would not accept the indictment of its members.

    Hassan Nasrallah, the group's leader "will make an appearance on Sunday at 8:30 pm (1830 GMT) ... to comment on the latest developments," Hezbollah's Al-Manar television reported.

    In November, Nasrallah that the group will "cut off the hand" of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members for the al-Hariri killing, raising fears of renewed violence in Lebanon.

    Meanwhile, rival factions began jockeying to form a new government.

    Michel Sleiman, the president who asked al-Hariri to stay on in a caretaker capacity, begins consultations with MPs on appointing a new premier on Monday.

    On Saturday, Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, Lebanon's leading Sunni religious leader, warned that the political stalemate could lead to "bloodshed and increase of pain and division".

    He said that stability was the need of the hour, and that the formation of a government by Saad al-Hariri is "in the interest of Lebanon".

    Powerbroker

    Under complicated power-sharing arrangements in multi-confessional Lebanon, the prime minister is always a Sunni Muslim.

    On Saturday, Al-Akhbar, a newspaper close to Hezbollah, raised the name of Omar Karameh, who was prime minister at the time of Rafiq al-Hariri's assassination.

    For its part, the parliamentary majority headed by al-Hariri has ruled out any other candidate than him.

    Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, seen as a possible dealmaker, was in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon's former powerbroker, for talks with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian prime minister.

    Jumblatt, whose parliamentary bloc will be the first to meet with Sleiman, controls 11 seats in parliament that could make or break the next government.

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

    A trial could open "four to six months" after the charges are confirmed, tribunal registrar Herman von Hebel told journalists in The Hague in December.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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