Tribunal indicts new suspect in Hariri murder

Court publishes arrest warrant for the fifth suspect over assassination of the former Lebanese premier.

Rafik Hariri
Four Hezbollah members were charged in 2011 with plotting the attack but have not been arrested [EPA]

An international court has published one more arrest warrant related to the killing of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, that almost pushed the country into civil war.

Thursday’s announcement came months after the actual indictment.

The Special Tribunal for Labanon in the Hague has already indicted the fifth suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, on July 31 for the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others in Beirut, but kept it a secret to give the Lebanese government time to attempt to arrest him the accused.

Prosecutors say Merhi, like the four suspects previously indicted by the court, is a supporter of Hezbollah, the Shia political party and paramilitary group.

They say he helped plan the bomb attack and afterwards tried to hide Hezbollah’s alleged responsibility.

Hezbollah denies any role in killing Hariri, a billionaire Sunni Muslim politician.

None of the four suspects previously indicted, who include Mustafa Amine Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah figure, is in the court’s custody. The court is trying them in absentia.

In the 35-page indictment, prosecutors used mobile phone records to detail how Merhi and Badreddine allegedly worked with Salim Jamil Ayyash, another suspect, to monitor Hariri’s movements over the final weeks of his life.

Unidentified bomber

The bomb, in a Mitsubishi van filled with the equivalent of 2.5 tonnes of high explosive, was detonated by a still unidentified suicide bomber.

The blast struck a busy street on Beirut’s waterfront, wounding 226 other people and destroying a nearby hotel.

Prosecutors allege Merhi worked with fellow indictees Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra to falsely attribute responsibility for the attack to a fictional fundamentalist group, Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria.

Oneissi and Sabra called the Beirut offices of Reuters news agency and Al Jazeera to claim responsibility on behalf of this fake group, prosecutors say.

They then left a video by a tree near the Al Jazeera offices which purported to show a last message from the suicide bomber.

Hezbollah says the suspects will never be handed over to the court, which it dismisses as a tool of US and Israeli interests.

Source: News Agencies