Hezbollah’s leader has said the group is not concerned with the verdict of a United Nations-backed tribunal on the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, due on August 18.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is expected to hand down its verdict on Tuesday to four suspects, who were all being tried in absentia and are alleged members of Hezbollah.
“We do not feel concerned by the STL’s decisions,” group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address on Friday.
“For us, it will be as if no decision was ever announced,” he said. “If our brothers are unjustly sentenced, as we expect, we will maintain their innocence.”
Nasrallah has repeatedly expressed similar views, completely rejecting the jurisdiction and independence of the court, which is based in The Netherlands.
The slain former prime minister’s son Saad Hariri, himself a former prime minister in Lebanon, is expected in The Hague for the verdict.
The four defendants went on trial in 2014 on charges including the “intentional homicide” of Rafik Hariri and 21 others, attempted homicide of 226 people wounded in the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri, and conspiracy to commit a “terrorist” act.
Nasrallah warned that “some will attempt to exploit the STL to target the resistance and Hezbollah”, but urged his supporters to be “patient” when the verdict is announced.
Observers have voiced fears that the verdict, whichever way it goes, could spark violence on the streets of Lebanon between Hezbollah and Hariri supporters.
Hezbollah demands unity government
Nasrallah also called for the formation of a national unity government in Lebanon, days after the cabinet resigned amid fury over the August 4 devastating Beirut blast that killed some 200 people.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government resigned on Monday over the explosion, widely blamed on negligence and corruption by the country’s ruling class.
In his second speech since the blast, Nasrallah dismissed the idea of a “neutral government” as a “waste of time” for a country where power and influence are distributed according to religious sects.
“We don’t believe there are neutral [candidates] in Lebanon for us to form a [neutral] government,” Nasrallah said.
Instead, the Hezbollah chief called for a government model that has endured for years, despite prolonged political and economic crises and demands for change.
“We are calling for attempts to form a national unity government, and if that is not possible, then a government that secures the widest representation possible for politicians and experts,” Nasrallah said.
“We call for a strong government, a capable government, a government that is protected politically,” he said.