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Indictments Expected Soon in Hariri Murder: Court Official Says Names to Be Made Public in Weeks

The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon is moving closer to indicting Hezbollah leaders in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A court official says names will be made public in a matter of weeks and that a trial could follow as soon as September.

A photo taken in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attack against former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005 Zoom
REUTERS

A photo taken in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attack against former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005

The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) would like to do everything in its power to exercise the arrest warrants of the suspected killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a February 2005 bombing attack in Beirut.

STL registrar Herman von Hebel told SPIEGEL the arrest warrants would be activated "in cooperation with the government of Beirut, which is obligated to extradite -- if necessary with the help of other states." As "registrar," the Dutchman holds a key position in the court, which was created at the request of Lebanon and is meant to have an "international character," as it states on its own website. It is the first of its kind to attempt to clear up a terrorist attack.

In light of the tense political situation in Lebanon at the moment, particular importance is being attached to von Hebel's words. It is likely that the tribunal will move to charge leading members of the radical Islamist Hezbollah in connection with the assassination. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, 50, has already announced that he will not allow any of his people to be extradited, stating that the tribunal is an "American-Israeli tool." The week before last, Nasrallah initiated the resignations of his party's ministers as well as a few allies in the cabinet, causing the collapse of the national unity government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, 40.

Hariri Determined to Work with Tribubal

But Hariri, Rafik's son, is determined to continue working together with the STL. He will remain in office as interim prime minister and wants to fight to keep his post. For his part, Nasrallah appears to favor former Prime Minister Omar Karami, 76, a friend to Syria. At this time, however, no clear possibility is forming for a new government coalition and the deadlock could last for months to come.

It's possible the tribunal will act sooner. Last Tuesday, one day after the chief prosecutor in the Hague sealed the arrest warrants and turned them over to the coordinating judge, Hezbollah provoked Prime Minister Hariri with an odd display of force: The group dispatched its militias to protest at strategic locations around Beirut. Hariri supporters within his party called it a test run for a possible national strike.

STL registrar von Hebel says it is likely the names contained on the arrest warrants will be made public in "six to 10 weeks" and that a trial could start as soon as the beginning of September. "If necessary, a trial without the presence of the defendants would be conceivable, the statutes allow us to judge in absentia," he said.

dsl/SPIEGEL

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