Lebanese authorities should try harder to arrest four Hezbollah members wanted for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, the tribunal investigating the case said Thursday.
“The recent report by the Lebanese authorities on the steps that they have taken to search for the accused was… assessed by the STL president,” the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) said in a statement.
“While Judge (Antonio) Cassese deemed their efforts to be reasonable, he also called on authorities to intensify their attempts to arrest the accused,” the statement added.
Cassese ruled that “public advertisement of the indictment was now necessary”, the text of which would be sent to Lebanese authorities.
“This must take place before a decision about in absentia proceedings can be taken,” the Hague-based tribunal said.
The Lebanese prosecutor general is now also required to report to the tribunal on a monthly basis, said the statement.
Prosecutors had previously confirmed that they were indicting Salim Ayyash, 47, Mustafa Badreddine, 50, Hussein Anaissi, 37 and Assad Sabra, 34, for the 14 February 2005 suicide car bomb attack in Beirut that killed Hariri and 22 others, including the suicide bomber. All four are members of the Iran-backed Shiite militia.
Ayyash and Badreddine face five charges including that of “committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device” and homicide, while Anaissi and Sabra faced charges of conspiring to commit the same acts.
Lebanon on August 9 filed a report to the STL in which its prosecutor general stated the Middle East country “exerted its utmost efforts to execute (the) arrest warrants in the name of the four accused,” said the STL.
“Steps taken by the Lebanese authorities, as outlined by the prosecutor general, include surveillance, interviewing alleged associated of the accused, visiting localities where the accused are believed to have connections, meeting with municipality officials and interviewing neighbours,” the STL said.
“Those efforts were unsuccessful.”
The tribunal Wednesday said it had enough evidence to try the four Hezbollah members, as it published the full indictment.
But Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah which is now a key player in Lebanon’s coalition government, has ruled out the arrest of the four suspects, hinting that the STL was heading for a trial in absentia.
He said late Wednesday that the tribunal lacked sufficient evidence to implicate members of his group.