Leidschendam, Netherlands: Lawyers for the Hezbollah members accused of the 2005 assassination of Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri argued on Monday that a UN-backed court set up to try them had no jurisdiction in the case.

“This is not an international crime,” lawyer Antoine Korkmaz told the court, insisting that Lebanese justices should try the four Hezbollah members suspected of the killing rather than the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Defence lawyers in June launched a bid to have the UN-backed court declared illegal, saying the UN Security Council had abused its powers when it set up the tribunal five years ago.

Korkmaz said that in passing the May 2007 resolution, the United Nations Security Council had “hijacked the powers given to it by the [UN] Charter.”

Defence lawyers are appealing after judges on July 30 issued a first ruling that the court had the jurisdiction for the trial.

Hariri, a billionaire politician, was killed on February 14, 2005 in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront along with another 22 people, including the suicide bomber.

“Terrorism is not an international crime for which you can set up an international criminal tribunal,” Korkmaz said, noting that no special tribunal was set up to try those behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

The STL announced in July that the trial would provisionally start on March 25 next year, even though the defendants are still at large.

Hezbollah denies involvement in the spectacular bombing that killed Hariri and was initially blamed on Syria.