UN tribunal convicts Hezbollah defendant in Hariri assassination case

WION Web Team
Leidschendam, Netherlands Updated: Aug 19, 2020, 07:33 AM(IST)

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire, had close ties with the West and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, and was seen as a threat to Iranian and Syrian influence in Lebanon.

A UN-backed tribunal on Tuesday found a member of the Hezbollah Shiite movement guilty over the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri but cleared three other suspects after a years-long trial.

The long-awaited decision prompted mixed reactions, with the late Hariri's son Saad telling journalists outside the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) he "accepted the tribunal's verdict."

"Everybody's expectation was much higher than what came out today, but I believe that the tribunal came out with a result that is satisfying. We accept it," said Saad Hariri, also a former prime minister, after attending the hearing at the STL's heavily fortified courthouse.

Also read: UN court finds no evidence against Hezbollah, Syria in Hariri's assassination

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire, had close ties with the West and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, and was seen as a threat to Iranian and Syrian influence in Lebanon. He led efforts to rebuild Beirut following the 1975-1990 civil war.

While the court found no evidence of direct involvement by the leadership of Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, or the Syrian government, the judges said the killing was clearly a politically motivated act of terrorism.

Delivering their verdict over several hours, they found main defendant Salim Jamil Ayyash guilty on all counts and said prosecutors had established his affiliation with Hezbollah.

Ayyash, 56, was convicted in absentia by the STL based in the Netherlands, over a huge suicide bombing in Beirut that killed the Sunni billionaire politician and 21 other people.

"The trial chamber finds Mr Ayyash guilty beyond reasonable doubt as a co-perpetrator of the assassination of Rafic Hariri," said David Re, presiding judge of the tribunal.

Addressing victims of the attack, he said: "We sincerely hope the verdict today will give you some sort of closure."

Hariri's son, Saad, like his slain father a former Lebanese prime minister, reacted to the verdict by vowing he would not rest until punishment was served. He said it was time for the Hezbollah movement to assume responsibility.

Hezbollah has denied any involvement in Hariri's killing. Its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday he was not concerned with the trial and that if any members of the group were convicted, it would stand by their innocence.

Read in App