News / Middle East

    Hariri Assassination Trial Opens in The Hague

    Judges (top row, L-R) Walid Akoum, Janet Nosworthy, David Re, Micheline Braidi and Nicola Lettier preside over the courtroom of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague, The Netherlands, Jan. 16, 2014.
    Judges (top row, L-R) Walid Akoum, Janet Nosworthy, David Re, Micheline Braidi and Nicola Lettier preside over the courtroom of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague, The Netherlands, Jan. 16, 2014.
    Lisa Bryant
    A suicide bombing in northern Lebanon Thursday coincided with the start of a much awaited trial in The Hague. Four men are accused in absentia of plotting the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

    Some fear the trial at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon risks further fueling deadly sectarian violence in the Middle Eastern country.

    The prosecution at The Hague trial played footage of the moments after a powerful car bomb shook Beirut's waterfront nearly nine years ago. The blast killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

    Scores more were wounded. Images showed anguished people trying to rescue victims, charred and mangled vehicles, and the body of  Hariri covered by a blanket.

    Hariri's son, the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, attended the trial's opening at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the outskirts of the Dutch city. So did family members of other victims.

    Prosecutor Norman Farrell said those responsible for the blast used an enormous amount of high explosives, deliberately aimed to kill ordinary citizens as well as the prime minister.

    "The case against the accused… is built on a number of different strands of evidence, understood in their relation to each other and in their totality," he said. "Each reinforces the other… [it] is the numerous pieces of reinforcing evidence, including the indelible trails which the accused cannot erase.

    "When taken together, [they] lead, in the prosecution's submission, beyond [a] reason[able] doubt, to the conclusion that each of the four accused carried out the acts attributed them and are guilty of the crimes charged," he said.

    The Accused

    • Salim Jamil Ayyash
    • Mustafa Amine Badreddine
    • Hussein Hassan Oneissi
    • Assad Hassan Sabra
    The four suspects - Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra and Hussein Oneissi - are being tried in absentia. They are all members of Lebanon's militant Shi'ite movement Hezbollah.

    They are charged with planning the car bombing that killed Hariri. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to life in prison. A fifth man, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted later and is not officially a suspect in this trial.

    Hezbollah denies any involvement. It claims the United States and Israel are behind the assassination.

    With a mass of evidence to be presented and hundreds of witness statements, the proceedings may take years.

    Rafik Hariri

    • Born in Sidon, Lebanon in 1944
    • Worked in Saudi Arabia after graduating from college in Lebanon
    • Lebanon's prime minister from 1992 to 1998 and 2000 until 2004
    • Assassinated February 14, 2005 in Beirut
    Another prosecutor, Alexander Milne, detailed the minutes leading up to the bombing. He displayed photos of a smiling Hariri leaving Beirut's parliament and later sounds of the blast disrupting a speech in the building, located about a kilometer away.

    "The Beirut terrorist bombing of the 14th of February 2005 shook the people of Lebanon and the rest of the world," he said. "Initial outrage and horror gave way to a firm determination to establish what had happened and to find out who was responsible."

    Many believe Syria was behind the assassination of Mr. Hariri, a powerful Sunni politician with close ties to Saudi Arabia. Damascus, which has close links to Hezbollah, has denied any involvement. The killing sparked massive demonstrations in Lebanon that helped to end Syria's military presence there.

    Some hail the trial for ending a sense of impunity tied to other killings in Lebanon - even though the suspects remain at large. But others fear it will further deepen tensions between Lebanese Sunni and Shia Muslims.

    ​The country has been shaken by a string of recent killings. Early Thursday, a suicide bomb blast in the north killed several people and wounded more than two dozen.

    A car bomb last month near the 2005 blast site killed Mohamad Chatah, another Hezbollah critic and a former aide to Saad Hariri. Again, Hezbollah and Syria were accused of being behind his death.

    • A Lebanese Internal Security police officer walks past a damaged car at the site of an explosion in Hermel, Jan. 16, 2014.
    • Black smoke rises from the site of a car bomb explosion in Hermel, northeast Lebanon, Jan. 16, 2014.
    • A man reacts near a burning car at the site of an explosion in the Shi'ite town of Hermel, Jan. 16, 2014.
    • People gather at the site of a car bomb explosion in Hermel, northeast of Lebanon, Jan. 16, 2014.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    Party's presumptive presidential nominee, her vice presidential pick deliver optimistic message in Florida as they campaign for first time together

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Amid Yousef from: Cleveland Ohio
    January 16, 2014 11:51 AM
    THis trial is a *SHAM* orchestrated by those wanting to keep the WAR in SYRIA going...
    THe JUDGES are to stop this SHAM if they have an ounce of DECENCY or if true JUSTICE runs in their bones.
    Saad HARIRI is a MORON and he is No Rafiq Hariri (He is a Mama's boy and Saudi PUPPET) his dad stood up to SAUDI ARABIA and HE saw what happened, and conducting this trial is a TRAVESTY of Justice and a DISTRACTION from GENEVA II next week.

    Turn off the TV CAMERAS and watch this entire SHAM implode.
    ***SHAME SHAME SHAME for conducting a SHAM TRIAL***

    1- 5 people supposedly on trial and NOT one of them has been served with a notice or even been FOUND... you are conducting a MADE for TV trial to overshadow the

    by: Bob from: USA
    January 16, 2014 10:42 AM
    Who are these white Europeans that think they can prosecute whomever they want in the world?!! You bunch are nothing more than lackey ziodog employees! Stick to Europe where you belong! No one asked for you interference in other nations on OTHER continents.
    In Response

    by: serg from: australia
    January 29, 2014 5:36 AM
    Interesting comment Bob coming from an american ....have you been living in a cave since 1918? Or been in a coma? You really have no idea of US foreign policy?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora