LEBANON: Court releases names and pictures of Hariri's alleged killers
The United Nations-backed international tribunal set up to bring to justice those responsible for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others on Friday published the identities, photographs, and background information of four suspects named in the indictment, issued on June 28.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon splashed photographs and detailed information on its website about the personal history of the four suspects -- identified as Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra.
The men range in age from 36 to 50. The published information includes the names of their parents, their passport and social security numbers, and their last known addresses.
Among listed charges against them are conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and being an accomplice to the felony of premeditated homicide by using explosive materials.
The move came after consultations between international prosecutor Daniel A. Bellemare and the Lebanese legal authorities, according to a statement by the tribunal. The consultations apparently affirmed that lifting the confidentiality of that kind of information did "not contradict Lebanese law with regard to executing arrests.”
The suspects' names had been widely circulated and reported in Lebanese media when the indictment was confirmed at the end of June, but the tribunal's decision to lift the confidentiality and confirm their names is still likely to heighten sectarian and political tensions in Lebanon.
Three of the accused are residents of the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut, and the fourth is a resident of mainly Shiite south Lebanon. The statement did not mention Hezbollah, but it has been widely reported that the four men are affiliated with the militant group. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to defy international authorities' demand that the men be handed over.
The court's confirmation of the suspects' names marks another painful blow to Hezbollah, which is increasingly projecting an image of itself as heeding Iranian interests rather than being an Arab nationalist organization by proclaiming its undying support for Syria's embattled leader Bashar Assad, whose troops are engaged in a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Hezbollah has denounced the tribunal as a U.S. and Israeli conspiracy and has consistently denied any involvement in the spectacular assassination of ex-premier Hariri on the Beirut waterfront in February 2005. He was killed along with 21 others when a massive truck bomb exploded on his motorcade.
Hezbollah has also vowed to hit hard at anyone trying to arrest the men, who have disappeared, possibly to Iran, according to analysts.
Prosecutor Bellemare said that making the names and biographies of the suspects available to the general public may lead to their arrest.
The tribunal issued international arrest warrants for the four suspects in early July and Lebanon has until Aug. 11 to report "on the progress made" in implementing the arrest warrants.
Few, however, believe the men will ever be found and put before a court.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon published Friday the full names and photographs of four individuals charged the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. Credit: Special Tribunal for Lebanon website