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.

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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?

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