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Hacking Bombshell Shakes Lebanon, Threatens UN Murder Inquiry

A bizarre series of leaks and hacks is threatening to reignite still-simmering anger over the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

There is an ongoing United Nations Special Tribunal preparing indictments related to the assassination, which is widely thought to have involved the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah and its Syrian allies. The investigation was thrown into disarray last month when Al Akhbar, a Hezbollah-linked newspaper, published confidential details of 17 witnesses likely slated to testify in any murder trial over Hariri’s death. The details included names, passport pictures, dates of birth, and places of employment. The U.N. blasted the publication, noting that it put the witnesses’ lives at risk.

Now the names and photographs of more than 200 additional witnesses have been posted on the website of the pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, which claims that the information was posted by a hacker who compromised the paper’s servers. Hezbollah websites promptly took the list and republished it. The Tower has viewed the information and can confirm the details of the story, if not the accuracy of the personal information.

Lebanese media has been covering the hacking incident as well. Representatives of the Special Tribunal blasted those responsible for grave breaches of journalistic ethics and for endangering the lives of witnesses:

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon slammed Tuesday the online publishing of a list of alleged witnesses involved in the probe into the assassination of statesman Rafik Hariri, describing it as an attempt to undermine the court’s work. “There have been a number of concerted efforts to undermine the work of the Tribunal and to threaten alleged witnesses,” said Marten Youssef, the STL spokesman.

On Tuesday, the website of Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal newspaper was hacked with its front page replaced with a list of names under the title “secret witnesses in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (Group #1)” from a website called “Journalists for The Truth.” The website, by a “group of journalists seeking to unveil corruption in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” also lists a series of “instructions to STL witnesses.”

Youssef described the “Journalists for The Truth” website as a “clear attempt by so-called ‘journalists’ to intimidate alleged witnesses.”

Hezbollah is increasingly under fire within the Arab world for acting as an Iranian proxy and for destabilizing Lebanon. Bahrain on Tuesday became the first Arab state to formally designate the group a terror organization.

[Photo: The Israel Project via Wiki Commons / Helene C. Stikkel and Al-Mustaqbal Newspaper Twitter]