Eight lawyers have been selected to represent four Hezbollah members due to be tried in absentia for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, a UN-backed tribunal said Thursday.
“The head of (the) Defence Office assigned permanent counsel to the four accused in the case of the prosecutor against Ayyash and others,” the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) said in a statement.
Each of the four defendants, who remain at large, will have a counsel and co-counsel who “are fully independent and can choose any strategy they see best fit to defend the rights of the accused”, it said.
The Hague-based tribunal said Wednesday that Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Anaissi and Assad Sabra, will be tried in absentia for the massive suicide car bombing in Beirut on February 14, 2005 that killed Hariri and 21 others.
The STL sent arrest warrants for Ayyash and the three others to Lebanese authorities in June last year, and Interpol issued a “red notice” in July.
But the authorities in Lebanon, where the government is dominated by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah militant group, have failed to arrest them.
The lawyers “are facing the difficult task of representing the accused without communicating with them”, the court said.
Ayyash, 48 and Badreddine, 50, face charges of “committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device” and homicide, while Anaissi, 37, and Sabra, 35, face charges of conspiring to commit the same acts.
Created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution at Lebanon’s request, the STL opened its doors in 2009 and is tasked with trying those suspected of responsibility for Hariri’s assassination.