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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid