The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has concluded that the assassination of former PM Hariri was done by individuals, not at the behest of Syria or Hezbollah.
Rabat – The Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Netherlands issued its verdict on Tuesday after five years. The tribunal was tasked with investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. The investigation by the Lebanon tribunal concluded there is no evidence the leadership of Syria and Hezbollah, prime suspects in the case, were aware of the assassination plans. Rather, several individuals acted independently.
After 415 days of hearings and hearing 297 witness testimonies, the tribunal has now concluded by finding Salim Ayyash guilty as a co-conspirator in the case. Although Ayyash was a member of Hezbollah, senior leadership was not involved in the plot to assassinate Hariri, according to the verdict.
Saad Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon and son of Rafic Hariri, attended the session and expressed relief that the tribunal has now provided a conclusive verdict. “We accept the verdict of the tribunal and want justice to be implemented,” Hariri said. He stated that the assassination had attempted to “change the face of Lebanon and its system and its civilized identity” and that those found guilty should receive “just punishment.”
The family of the assassinated prime minister has accepted the verdict that ends years of speculation over the assassination. Syria and Hezbollah were unofficially seen as prime suspects due to Rafic Hariri’s attempts to see their power in Lebanon diminished. Suspicions against Syria were so strong that large-scale protests following the assassination forced Syrian troops to leave Lebanon. However, the official suspects were four Hezbollah members. The tribunal can only accuse individuals.
Leadership not involved
David Re, the presiding judge in today’s announcement, told the Associated Press that judges had taken into account that “Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri, and some of his political allies.” He added that the judges found no evidence that “Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder, and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement in it.”
The tribunal’s verdict was delayed for two weeks after the devastating explosion in Lebanon’s capital on August 4. Now that the verdict is out, many in Lebanon will hope to see some justice after 15 years of speculation. All eyes will be on Hezbollah now, as they will be asked to hand over Ayyash. The group had committed to ignoring the verdict, but that could change now that the tribunal only found one individual guilty.