Finally and after long 15 years, an international court has delivered its long-waited judgement in the case of the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri.
A member of Lebanese Hezbollah militia was convicted by the United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, while three other members of the armed group were acquitted because of lack of sufficient evidence.
Al Hariri was killed by on 14 February 2005 when a truck carrying 2.5 tonnes of high-grade explosives blew up his motorcade passed by Beirut’s waterfront Saint Georges hotel. Twenty one others were killed in the bombing.
The court’s verdict has delivered partial justice for Lebanon, the Hariri family and dozens of families of the innocent victims of the 2005 terrorist bombing. Now, the Lebanese people await its implementation. And that is the responsibility of the Lebanese government
Al Hariri’s assassination changed Lebanon forever. Days after his killing, millions of Lebanese protested against the presence of the Syrian forces accusing Damascus of masterminding the killing of the former prime minister. Two months later the Syrian army left Lebanon after 30 years of exerting full domination over the country.
Lebanon’s economic growth and rebuilding projects stopped. Al Hariri was credited with leading his country to stability and its economic boom in the years after the end of the civil war in 1990.
Hezbollah operatives, Salim Ayyash, Hassan Merhi, Assad Sabra and Hussein Oneissi were charged with conspiring and committing the terror act. “The assassination was carried for political reasons, not for personal reasons,” the court noted.
Prosecutors said data collected from telephone networks showed that the four operatives called each other from dozens of mobile phones to monitor Al Hariri’s movement and activities in the months before the assassination and to coordinate their missions on the day of the bombing.
Hezbollah "not directly” involved
However, the court found compelling evidence to convict one person, Ayyash. The court acquitted the other three, citing lack of similar evidence. The court bizarrely ruled that Hezbollah itself is “not directly” involved in the crime, even though Ayyash is known to be a member of the armed group.
The court’s decision comes at a time when Lebanon continues to reel under the impact of the massive explosion at Beirut port earlier this month. Tuesday’s judgement is expected to escalate the already inflamed political situation in the country, especially after Hezbollah has made it clear that it will never hand over any of the accused.
Al Hariri’s son, former prime minister Saad said he accepts the verdict and has asked Hezbollah to help achieve justice by handing over the convicted terrorist.
The judgement is important as it sets a precedent of accountability. So many crimes committed in Lebanon have gone unpunished. The special tribunal’s decision thus is a turning point for the country’s future in this regard.
The court’s verdict has delivered partial justice for Lebanon, the Hariri family and dozens of families of the innocent victims of the 2005 terrorist bombing. Now, the Lebanese people await its implementation. And that is the responsibility of the Lebanese government.