By Justice Hub
Prosecutors at the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon have started calling witnesses to describe Syria’s role in Lebanese politics. By extension, Syria could end up being accused of complicity in the plot to assassinate former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005.
More than a dozen witnesses are expected to detail “how relations broke down between the former premier and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the months before the assassination”.
The tribunal is trying in absentia five members of the Lebanese militia and political party Hezbollah, accused of organising the 2005 bombing that killed Lebanon’s charismatic former prime minister.
The initial investigation into the event suggested that because the Syrian intelligence service was so heavily involved in the country, the plot could not have been carried out without the Syrians’ knowledge. But the STL prosecutor’s indictment only makes mention of Hezbollah operatives and never detailed what motive they would have had to target Hariri. All five suspects have never been present in court.
But now the prosecutors are planning to bring in witnesses to describe the breakdown in relations between the Syrian president and Hariri. Defence lawyers have asked the prosecution to state explicitly whether they are planning to formally accuse any Syrian officials in the case. “Is the prosecution going to name Bashar al-Assad and Rustom Ghazaleh [the head of the intelligence service]? And when are the new names going to be added to its indictment?”