Lebanon tribunal charges Hariri suspect for three more attacks

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A picture shows the exterior of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague. — AFP

THE HAGUE — A UN-backed court on Monday indicted a Hezbollah suspect accused of murdering ex-Lebanon premier Rafik Al-Hariri over three other attacks, in the first new case taken on by the tribunal since its creation in 2007.

Salim Ayyash was charged by a pre-trial judge with terrorism and murder over the deadly attacks on politicians in 2004 and 2005, said the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The 55-year-old is one of four suspected members of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah charged with assassinating billionaire Hariri with a huge bomb in Beirut in 2005.

The Sunni former prime minister was allegedly killed because he opposed Syrian control over Lebanon. His death led to the "Cedar Revolution" which forced Damascus to pull out.

Judge Daniel Fransen "lifted today the confidentiality of his decision confirming an indictment against Mr. Salim Jamil Ayyash relating to the attacks," said the tribunal based in a suburb just outside The Hague.

"The confirmation of this indictment marks the opening of a new case before the STL."

The first attack in Beirut on Oct. 1, 2004, wounded Druze MP and ex-minister Marwan Hamade, as well as another person, and killed his bodyguard, the tribunal said.

The second attack, also in Beirut, on June 21, 2005, killed ex-leader of the Lebanese Communist Party Georges Hawi and injured two other people while the third killed one person and injured then defence minister Elias El-Murr and 14 others in Antelias, near the Lebanese capital.

The tribunal was established by UN decree in 2007 and opened in the Hague suburb of Leidschendam in 2009.

The court is unique in international justice because it is trying four defendants in absentia over the attack that killed 21 people besides Hariri and wounded 226.

The defendants, including Ayyash, went on trial in 2014 accused of core roles in the Valentine's Day attack on Beirut's waterfront targeting Hariri, who resigned in October 2004 over Syria's role in his country.

Ayyash is accused of leading the team that carried out the attack, while Assad Sabra, 41, and Hussein Oneissi, 41, allegedly sent a fake video to a news channel claiming responsibility on behalf of a made-up group.

Hassan Habib Merhi, 52, is accused of general involvement in the plot.

The alleged mastermind, Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, was indicted by the court but is now believed to have died while leading the militia's forces fighting with the Syrian regime in May 2016. — AFP


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