Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri yesterday hailed the opening of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) at The Hague as the “first page of true justice” in response to the assassination of his father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as the STL launched its first trial into Hariri’s February 2005 murder.
“Today is a historic day par excellence and Rafik Hariri’s presence was strongly felt as well as all the martyrs who died with him and those who fell after him, including Mohammed Shatah and his body guard, and the hundreds of victims who died in the bombings and political assassinations,” Hariri said at The Hague outside the STL headquarters. He also noted it was useless to try and hinder the path of justice, saying: “From now on, any attempt to try to disrupt this path will be in vain.”
The U.N.-backed court has indicted and seeks to try five members of Hezbollah for various roles in the attack. Four of the defendants are accused of direct involvement: Mustafa Badr Al Deen, believed to be the mastermind behind the operation, Salim Ayyash, accused of being in charge of the technical operational details, Hussain Anaissi, and Assad Sabra, both of whom are accused of preparing a propaganda video to claim false responsibility after the attack. Hezbollah has repeatedly interfered in the tribunal’s work and refused to turn over the suspects, going so far as to threaten to attack anyone who attempts to apprehend them. The Iran-backed terror group’s stance has been blasted – and was again criticized by Hariri at the STL’s opening – for putting the organization and its members beyond legal authority. Hudson Institute senior fellow Lee Smith has outlined how Hezbollah mobilizes organized violence – most recently via the car bombing and murder of former Ambassador to the U.S. Mohamad Chatah – to reinforce perceptions of exactly such immunity. The STL will be the first international tribunal to try suspects in absentia since Nuremberg.
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