Key dates leading up to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at The Hague.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has lifted confidentiality restrictions on an indictment issued in its investigation into the killing of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister blown up by a car bomb in 2005.
Wednesday’s move means details of the case against four men named as suspects by the tribunal in June and subject to arrest warrants can be revealed for the first time. The UN-established tribunal said in a statement it had taken the step in order that the case could “proceed to trial”.
The four men named by the STL – Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra – are all members of Hezbollah.
The documents describe a network of phones, which have been colour-coded to highlight their different functions, that are alleged to have been used by the suspects in co-ordinating the attack in which 21 other people also died.
The indictment claims that an assassination team consisting of Ayyah and others positioned themselves in several locations where they were able to track and observe Hariri’s movements, something they had been doing on several occasions prior to the attack.
The indictment went on to say that after the explosion, Oneissi and Sabra called Reuters and Al Jazeera, informing the latter on where to find a video tape that had been placed in a tree near ESCWA in Beirut
|Read the documents|
The video, which was aired on television, showed a man, Ahmad Abu Adass, claim to be the suicide bomber on behalf of a fictious extremist group.
According to information provided by the office of the prosecutor on the case, “Badreddine served as the overall controller of the attack. Ayyash coordinated the assassination team that was responsible for the physical perpetration of the attack.
“Oneissi and Sabra, in addition to being conspirators, prepared and delivered the false claim of responsibility video, which sought to blame the wrong people, in order to shield the conspirators from justice.”
The indictment also pointed out that Ayyash and Badreddine are related to each other, and also related to Imad Mughniyeh, a member of Hezbollah who was assassinated in Syria in 2008. This is the first official mention of a connection between the suspects and other members of the movement.
“This order will finally inform the public and the victims about the facts alleged in the indictment regarding the commission of the crime that led to charging the four accused,” tribunal prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said in a statement.
Investigators admit that the evidence gathered is largely circumstantial, primarily because it is based on phone networks.
Kamel Wazni, a political analyst in Beirut, pointed out that the evidence released was not concrete. “This is based entirely on phone networks,” he told Al Jazeera. “This doesn’t prove those people are behind it. Hezbollah sees these claims as a a fabrication, and there is no concrete evidence that links them to the assassination.”
He went on to point out that in the past Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah, had repeatedly produced video footage and evidence highlighting Israel’s involvement in the country, and linked that with the alleged Israeli spies in the country.
“I think Hezbollah presented stronger evidence on Israeli infiltration in Lebanese networks, but this has not been taken into consideration by the STL,” said Mr Wazni.
Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs as well as editor at large of Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, told Al Jazeera that at first glance, the information published appears to be quite persuasive.
“The level of detail is quite compelling,” he said. “Everyone has been waiting for this to come out to decide if this is a credible process or a political and bias process. The evidence now shows there is an incredible amount of detail, and this sets the stage for some dynamic and turbulent times ahead.”
The STL, which was established by the United Nations in 2007 to investigate the killing, has had a polarising effect on Lebanese domestic politics, dividing the country into two distinct camps; those who believe the STL is pushing forward a political agenda to bring down Hezbollah, and those who believe that the court is the only institution that will be able to objectively rule on the killing.
Hezbollah and its cabinet allies have dominated Lebanon’s coalition government since members of a coalition led by Saad Hariri, Rafiq al-Hariri’s son, quit amid controversy over the STL investigation.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the assassination, saying that the investigation leading up to the indictments had been politically motivated and ignored the possibility of investigating other suspects.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has repeatedly dismissed the tribunal as a US-Israeli conspiracy against his movement and says the suspects will not be handed over to face trial.