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Tribunal Opens Trial in Assassination of Lebanon's Hariri

A U.N.-backed tribunal has opened the trial against four men accused in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

He died when a van packed with explosives blew up in Beirut, killing 21 other people and wounding more than 200 others.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon began the trial Thursday in the Netherlands against four members of the militant group Hezbollah, who are being tried in absentia.

Prosecutor Norman Farrell said in his opening statement that those responsible for the blast meant to kill not only Mr. Hariri, but also civilians.



"The attackers used an extraordinary quantity of high-grade explosives, far more than was required to kill their main target. Clearly their aim was not only to ensure that the target was killed, but to send a terrifying message and to cause panic among the population of Beirut and Lebanon."



The prosecution plans to call hundreds of witnesses in presenting its case. The defense is expected to give its opening statement to the tribunal on Monday.

Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the attack, and denounced the tribunal as a conspiracy by Israel and the United States.



Prosecutors say the four men took part in a conspiracy to kill Mr. Hariri. Two of them are facing charges of actually carrying out the bombing, while prosecutors say the other two used phone calls to news agencies and a fake videotaped confession to make a false claim of responsibility.

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