Dubai: The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probing the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri on Thursday issued its long-awaited indictment and accused four Hezbollah members of the murder, Lebanese officials and media said on Thursday.
"I will now examine the indictment and the warrants to take the appropriate measures," Lebanese prosecutor Saeed Mirza was quoted as telling reporters following a meeting with a three-member delegation from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
The STL team delivered to Mirza the sealed indictment and arrest warrants for the four suspects during a meeting at Mirza's office in the Justice Palace in Beirut before midday Thursday.
While the names of the accused were not disclosed by Mirza or any other Lebanese officials, media quoted ‘reliable' sources in the prosecutor's office as saying the four are security and military members of Hezbollah. The sources named Mustafa Badr Al Deen, Salim Al Ayyash, Hassan Aineysseh and Assad Sabra. The four names couldn't be confirmed by other sources. Their whereabouts are unknown, analysts noted.
"When we see the (STL) indictment, we will comment on it," said Minister of State for Administrative Affairs and Hezbollah member Mohammad Fneish in a statement carried by some press reports.
Lebanon, according to Hesham Jaber, a military expert and head of the Beirut-based Middle East Centre for Studies, faces two realities which place the country in a predicament.
"The first is that these indictments can't be ignored or put aside," he told the pan Arab Al Arabiya TV channel. "The second is that they can't be implemented."
Lebanon, according to experts, now has 30 days to serve the arrest warrants. If the suspects are not arrested within that period, the STL will then make public the indictment and summon the suspects to appear before the court.
Hezbollah has denied involvement in the assassination, describing the accusations as an "Israeli-American project." The group also warned that "none of its members will be interrogated or questioned in this regard." While, some reports said STL wants to question five Hezbollah members, STL prosecutor's spokesperson declined to comment.
In a statement to Gulf News, a spokesperson in the prosecutor's office said: "As a matter of policy, the Office of the Prosecutor does not share information about its investigation with the public.
This policy is based on considerations of utmost concern for the integrity of the investigation and the safety of victims, witnesses, suspects and staff.
Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the indictment implicating Hezbollah members was not a verdict.
Meanwhile, the indictment was greeted with mixed reactions across the Lebanese political spectrum. Former Lebanese prime minister and head of the March 14 bloc, Sa'ad Hariri described it as a hard-won, historic day for Lebanon. "After many years of patience, of struggle... today, we witness a historic moment in Lebanese politics, justice and security," he said in a statement. He also urged Lebanon's new government to uphold its commitment to international resolutions.
STL TEAM FOR SYRIA
A delegation from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) will head to Syria, press reports said.
"The delegation would head to Syria on a similar mission," reports said, referring to a visit yesterday when the team met with Lebanese State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza and handed him the indictment in Hariri murder case.
"The delegation is expected to hand over a list of suspects and the accusations against them," the reports added.
Earlier UN investigations had suggested Syria played a pivotal role in the planning and execution of Hariri's assassination.