Last updated: 20 October, 2011

Hariri tribunal to decide Nov 11 on absentia trial

The tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri will hold a hearing on November 11 to decide whether to try in absentia the four Hezbollah members accused in the case, the court said on Thursday.

“The trial chamber … schedules a hearing for Friday 11 November 2011, at 10:00” on the matter, it said.

The two sides have until November 2 to file their written briefs in the case, it said.

On Monday, the pre-trial judge asked the trial chamber to determine whether proceedings in absentia should be initiated in the case of Ayyash et al.

Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Anaissi, and Assad Sabra are wanted for the February 14, 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.

The tribunal, based in The Hague, was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution, at Lebanon’s request.

The court on August 17 unsealed the indictment against the four suspects and has said Lebanon must try harder to apprehend them, but the country’s Hezbollah-backed government is widely seen as resistant to the tribunal’s work.

A Western-backed government led by Hariri’s son Saad collapsed in January largely over its support for the tribunal.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, now a key player in Lebanese politics, has said he doubts the four indictees will ever be found and has branded the tribunal a US-Israeli conspiracy aimed at bringing down Hezbollah.

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.