Hariri assassination: suspected hezbollah member guilty

In 2005, then Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri was killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut. Now a UN tribunal has established that a man with ties to Hezbollah was involved.

More than 15 years after the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the special tribunal on Lebanon has found one of four defendants guilty. The Lebanese Salim Jamil Ajjasch was involved in the terrorist attack, the judges in Leidschendam near The Hague ruled. The sentence will be decided at a later date. Three other defendants, who like Ajjasch are on the run despite international arrest warrants, were acquitted for lack of evidence.

On February 14, 2005, a suicide bomber blew himself up when Hariri’s motorcade drove by in the center of the Lebanese capital, Beirut. In addition to the 60-year-old Sunni politician, 21 people died and 226 were injured. There was great horror in Lebanon and international outrage.

The convict has ties to Hezbollah

The judges said there was no doubt that Ayyash owned "one of the six cell phones used by the assassination team". He is guilty of having committed a terrorist attack and murder. "The evidence also shows that Mr. Ajjasch had a connection to Hezbollah," said Judge Micheline Braidy as she read a summary of the 2,600-page judgment. The three other defendants are also alleged members of the Islamist-Shiite and pro-Syrian militia.

However, the special tribunal found no evidence that the leadership of Hezbollah or Syria was involved in the attack. It is true that both "may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri and some of his political allies," said David Re, chief judge at the special tribunal for Lebanon. In the months before his death, the then prime minister had advocated reduced Syrian military influence in his country – and in turn advocated less influence of Hezbollah in Syria. But there is no evidence that the leadership of Hezbollah or Syria were directly involved in the murder.

Son of the victim welcomes the verdict

Hariri, a very rich Sunni businessman, is still held in high regard by many Lebanese to this day. He played a central role in the reconstruction of the country after 15 years of civil war. The Shiite Hezbollah, supported by Iran and allied with the Syrian government, to this day rejects any responsibility for the attack.

Hariri’s son welcomed the judgment of the special tribunal as "satisfactory". "We accept the judgment of the court and we want justice to be implemented," Saad Hariri said. "Today we all know the truth." With the decision, the court had shown "great credibility". His father was murdered because he was against the policies of the Syrian regime.

The verdict was actually supposed to be announced a week and a half ago. However, because of the explosion in Beirut, which left more than 170 dead and thousands injured, the court had postponed the verdict.

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