Lebanon tribunal confirms indictments in Hariri case (UPDATE)

Lebanon tribunal confirms indictments in Hariri case (UPDATE)

Source changed, details added (first version posted at 14:47)

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) confirmed Thursday that it had submitted its indictment for the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, dpa reported.

Hariri was assassination in 2005 in a car bombing widely blamed on Hezbollah.

"The indictment and accompanying arrest warrants were transmitted to the Lebanese authorities on Thursday," said pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen, according to a statement posted on the STL website.

"This is not a verdict of guilt and any accused person is presumed innocent unless his or her guilt is established at trial," the statement read.

Lebanese prosecutor general Saeed Mirza received the 163-page document at a meeting with three judges from the STL, which has given Lebanon 30 days to respond.

"We have to deal responsibly and realistically with the release of the STL's indictment," said Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The tribunal has long been a point of contention between Lebanon's rival political parties. On January 12, the militant Shiite Hezbollah and its allies toppled the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri over his refusal to stop the tribunal probing his father's murder.

Mikati now heads a new government which is mainly backed by a Hezbollah-led coalition.

The indictment reportedly includes arrest warrants for members of the Hezbollah movement.

State Minister for Administrative Affairs Mohammad Fneish, a member of Hezbollah, told a Lebanese radio station: "When we see the indictment, we will comment on it."

"We are not concerned with the indictment and won't respond to it," a Hezbollah source earlier told the German Press Agency dpa.

Those named in the indictment reportedly include Mustafa Badereddine, the brother-in-law of late Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughaniyeh, as well as members Sami Issa, Selim Ayyash, and Assad Sabra.

According to a judicial source, Selim Ayyash has dual Lebanese-US citizenship, and headed the unit that carried out Hariri's execution.

Hezbollah has denied involvement of its members in the bomb attack on Beirut's seaside that killed Hariri, in February 2005.

"The arrest warrants include four names but the number of suspects is more. The suspects are from Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian nationalities," a judicial source said.

"Most of the named suspects are not in Lebanon and might have fled to Iran after the assassination," a Lebanese security source told dpa.

He added that there was "one mastermind for all the Lebanese assassinations that targeted anti-Syrian officials after Hariri was killed in 2005," in reference to a bombing campaign after Hariri's death.

Former president Amin Gemayel, whose son was among those killed, told a press conference, "Justice should be achieved and should reach anyone, no matter what position he holds."

The STL has refused to comment on the identity of those named in the indictment.

"The indictment shall remain confidential in order to assist the Lebanese authorities in fulfilling their obligations to arrest the accused," the tribunal said on its website.

Gemayel called on security and judicial authorities to carry out their duties and implement the international resolution.

"We do not accept any failure and the political authority has to implement the decision," he said.

Rafik Hariri's son, former premier Saad Hariri, issued a statement shortly after the indictment was handed to Mirza, warning the new Hezbollah-led cabinet to abide by Lebanon's commitments to the tribunal.

"The cabinet should implement Lebanon's commitments towards the international tribunal and has no excuse in escaping its responsibilities," said Hariri, who now lives in Paris.

"After many years of patience, of struggle... today, we witness a historic moment in Lebanese politics, justice and security," the statement read.

"We are not seeking revenge, rather we put our faith in God," Hariri added.

Shortly after news of the indictments, Lebanese security forces were heavily deployed in Beirut, carrying out precautionary patrols to guard against any violence.

Supporters of the former premier fired shots into the air in the mainly Sunni Muslim neighbourhood of Tarek Jadideh.

"Since Hariri was martyred we have been asking for the truth behind the assassination and I think we are now starting to see the first list of names," one neighbourhood resident told dpa by phone.

"We are happy the truth is finally coming out," he added.

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