Last updated: 19 July, 2012

UN-backed court sets March trial date for Hariri murder

A UN-backed court said Thursday it had set a provisional date in March next year to begin a trial over the 2005 bomb attack that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

The trial was tentatively scheduled to start on March 25, 2013, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said in a statement, although the defendants remain at large.

In June 2011, the Netherlands-based court issued arrest warrants for four members of Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group based in Lebanon.

Interpol has also issued a “red notice” on the suspects, but so far Beirut has failed to arrest them and Hezbollah has denied responsibility.

Billionaire politician Hariri, along with 22 others including a suicide bomber, was killed in a huge car bomb blast in Beirut as Hariri was on his way home.

Moustafa Badreddine, 50, is accused of being the “brains” behind the attack while Salim Ayyash, 48, allegedly coordinated the team.

Hussein Anaissi, 37, and Assad Sabra, 35, allegedly made a video tape pretending another group had claimed responsibility for the attack, then sent the tape to Arab television network Al-Jazira.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the tribunal as a US-Israeli conspiracy and vowed that no member of Hezbollah would ever be found or arrested.

The tribunal, located in The Hague suburb of Leidschendam, is the only international court with a mandate to try suspects in absentia.

Prosecutors had said they would be ready to start presenting evidence in December, but defence lawyers had said they would not be ready before autumn next year.

Each suspect has been assigned two lawyers.