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Court Orders Release of Generals Detained in Hariri Case


Four pro-Syrian generals held in Lebanon in connection with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri have been freed after nearly four years in custody.

The United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon at The Hague in the Netherlands ordered their release Wednesday, citing insufficient evidence to prolong their detention. Their release means the tribunal now has no suspects in custody in connection to the assassination.

The generals had been held in Lebanon without charge since 2005. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon began its work on March first of this year.

One of the released generals, former security chief Jamil Sayyed, spoke to supporters who had gathered near his home. He criticized authorities for the detention but said he does not seek revenge.

Mr. Hariri's son, Saad Hariri, told reporters he accepted the court's ruling.

Many Lebanese blame Syria for the Beirut truck bombing that killed Rafik Hariri and 22 others in February 2005. Syria denies the charge.

Less than three months after the assassination, mass protests in Lebanon and pressure from the United Nations led Syria to remove its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence there.

The other generals who were released are Ali Hajj, a former domestic security chief; Raymond Azar, a former military intelligence chief; and Mustafa Hamdan, a former head of the presidential guard.

Supporters of the generals celebrated in Lebanon, and family members of the detainees gathered at Roumieh prison, outside Beirut, to see them freed.

Their release could have political ramifications. In June, Lebanon holds parliamentary elections that pit a pro-Western coalition, led by Saad Hariri, against an opposition dominated by the militant Shi'ite group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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