Monday, January 17, 2011

Indictments Filed In Hariri Assassination Probe

The indictments have been filed, but their contents wont be made public for several leaks despite leaks hinting at the possibility that Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran were involved in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The draft indictment will now be reviewed by pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen.
The pretrial judge will decide whether the case presented by the prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare of Canada, is strong enough to go to trial. The court said that if he chooses to issue formal indictments, he will then make the names public. Officials close to the investigation said this process will likely take six to eight weeks.

"The Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon can confirm that the prosecutor of the tribunal has submitted an indictment," the court said.

The court also said the investigation into the murder of Mr. Hariri, and other linked cases, is continuing and that other suspects could be indicted.

"The indictment marks the beginning of the judicial phase of the tribunal's work," the court said. "The prosecutor and his team will continue to vigorously pursue his mandate with respect to both continued investigative activity and the prosecution of this case."

In Beirut, talks over the formation of a new government were postponed Monday as a regional emergency meeting was under way in Damascus to resolve Lebanon's crisis. Last week, Hezbollah, the Shiite political and militant group, and its political allies toppled the government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Rafik's son, due to its support for the international tribunal.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman said talks with the parliament to nominate a new prime minister will take place next Monday and Tuesday.

The international court investigating Mr. Hariri's murder has exacerbated tensions inside Lebanon, as the tribunal is expected to indict between two and five Hezbollah members, according to officials briefed on the case.
Hizbullah has threatened violence if the indictments come down against its members. Hizbullah's top thug Nasrallah says that they would not acccept the results of the indictment and continue to claim that the US and Israel were behind the assassination and that the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon is the result of US and Israeli actions.

It goes without saying that Nasrallah and Hizbullah wont support current Prime Minister Saad Hariri's attempts to reconstitute the government after Hizbullah and its allies withdrew from the government.

Diplomats from around the world are pledging to back a stable government in Lebanon, including from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Spain and Russia.
U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly, who met Sunday with Zahle M.P. Nicholas Fattouch, reiterated her country’s support for the divisive U.N.-backed court probing the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Connelly was quoted as calling the tribunal “the Lebanese people’s best hope for putting its tragic and bloody history of political violence behind it.”

The tribunal is expected to name Hizbullah members in an indictment to be issued Monday and antipathy surrounding the court – as well as the issue of “false witnesses” – last week prompted the resignation of 10 March 8 ministers and independent M.P. Adnan Sayyed Hussein, toppling Hariri’s national unity government.

Fattouch, who successfully headed March 14’s Zahle list for 2009’s parliamentary polls before splitting from the bloc, is considered a key target to vote with March 8 following imminent consultations to find a new prime minister.

“Until now, we are communicating to reach a final decision which strengthens the unity that Zahle and the Bekaa have always enjoyed,” Fattouch said after meeting Connelly. “The most important thing [discussed] during our meeting was the major challenge, which is not how to form a new government, but how to re-establish the Lebanese nation.

“How do we take steps to build political platforms to reach national unity in an environment of active constitutional institutions which can only save the Lebanese?” Fattouch said.

An unidentified European diplomat told A.F.P. Friday France had requested the formation of an emergency “contact group,” consisting of representatives from Syria, Saudi Arabia, France, the U.S., Qatar, Turkey “and possibly other countries with a stake in Lebanon,” in order to confront the country’s worst political crisis since May 2008.
Considering that the Saudis and Egyptians are backing the Hariri government, it is not a surprise that Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah are in opposition; one theory as to why the assassination was carried out was that Hizbullah and Iran were opposed to Rafik Hariri getting closer to the Saudis. In other words, this is another front in the longstanding Sunni-Shi'ite conflict that has manifested itself in recent years as Iran (and its proxies and allies) versus the Sunni majority Saudis (and Egyptians).

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