Last updated: 10 February, 2014

Lebanese ex-general linked to Hariri case nominated to UNESCO

The Marshall Islands have nominated a former Lebanese general who was detained in connection with the death of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri as their envoy to UNESCO, the UN agency said Monday.

The move could see Jamil El Sayed, Lebanon’s former security services director, given immunity from prosecution as a special UN tribunal considers the Hariri case.

“I can confirm that the government of the Marshall Islands sent us a letter indicating that this person would represent it,” Sue Williams, a spokeswoman for UNESCO, the UN’s Paris-based cultural agency, told AFP.

French newspaper Le Figaro had on Monday reported Sayed’s nomination, saying: “Thanks to the diplomatic immunity that would be available to him, the former spymaster would avoid possible prosecution by The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).”

As host of UNESCO, France would need to grant Sayed a visa to take up his post. A foreign ministry spokesman could not say how Paris would respond to a visa request.

Sayed was arrested following the death of Hariri and 22 other people in a Beirut bomb attack on February 14, 2005 that was initially blamed on pro-Syrian Lebanese generals.

He was detained for four years but released in 2009 along with three other generals, after the UN said there was not sufficient evidence to keep them.

The trial of four Hezbollah members accused of murdering Hariri opened near The Hague last month, nine years after the huge Beirut blast provoked a political crisis that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence in Lebanon.

The Marshall Islands are a former US territory of around 70,000 residents in the Pacific Ocean.