BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Four Hezbollah suspects in the killing of Rafik al-Hariri were linked to the attack largely by circumstantial evidence gleaned from phone records, according to an indictment published yesterday after a six-year investigation which polarised Lebanon.
The Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah — which is backed by Iran and Syria — has denied any role in the 2005 bombing which killed Hariri, a billionaire Sunni Muslim politician, and 21 other people on the Beirut seafront.
Sealed arrest warrants for the men were issued in June by a U.N.-backed tribunal, setting the stage for the case to go to trial, but none of the four has been detained by Lebanese authorities and Hezbollah says they will never be arrested.
“The four accused participated in a conspiracy with others aimed at committing a terrorist act to assassinate Rafik Hariri,” said the 47-page indictment released by the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Hariri’s killing plunged Lebanon into a series of political crises and assassinations that led to clashes in May 2008, and there were fears that sectarian tensions would revive in a country still scarred by its 1975-1990 civil war.
Hezbollah, both a political movement and guerrilla army, toppled the government of Hariri’s son, Saad al-Hariri, in January after he resisted calls to renounce the tribunal.
Hariri called on Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to take a “historic stance” and respond to the publication of the indictment by announcing full cooperation with the tribunal so that the suspects could be extradited and face trial.
He also warned the Hezbollah-backed government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati that it had a responsibility to find and arrest the suspects.