Hezbollah Leader Says Claims of Hariri Assassination Links are Politically Motivated

July 23, 2010 - 2:39 AM
The leader of the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon says members will be among those to be indicted by an international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah appears on screen during a news conference in Beirut's southern suburbs on Thursday July 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Beirut (AP) – The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group said Thursday that its members will be among those indicted in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri – a move he dismissed as politically motivated.

Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the current prime minister, Saad Hariri, informed him of the upcoming indictments by an international tribunal investigating the suicide truck bombing, which killed Hariri and 22 others.

Many in Lebanon worry that if the tribunal accuses the Shiite Hezbollah of being connected to the assassination of Hariri, it could lead to bloodshed between Lebanon's Shiite and Sunni communities. Hariri was Sunni.

"All information that Hezbollah has show that the indictment was written in 2008 but it has been postponed for political reasons," Nasrallah said.

In May last year, Germany's Der Spiegel magazine said the court had evidence that members of Hezbollah were behind the assassination. Nasrallah denied the accusation, and said any attempt to implicate his group in the killing will be considered a politically motivated "Israeli accusation."

Earlier this year, the court summoned a dozen Hezbollah members and close supporters for questioning, though Nasrallah said they were only considered witnesses, not suspects. Nasrallah said Thursday that a new batch of Hezbollah members will be interviewed by investigators after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that ends around Sept. 10.

It is not known when the indictment will be ready or who will be charged. The prosecutor's office has refused to comment on the progress of the investigation.
Saad Hariri, Lebanon

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visits the grave of his assassinated father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in Beirut on Monday Nov. 9, 2009. After months of wrangling, Hariri has formed a “national unity” cabinet including Hezbollah and its allies. (AP Photo)

Many Lebanese accused neighboring Syria of being behind the Hariri assassination. Damascus denies the charge.

Hariri's death led to a sharp division among Lebanese, but also prompted the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the end of Damascus' 29-year domination of the country.

The Hariri tribunal was set up by the U.N. Security Council in 2007 and comprises seven foreign and four Lebanese judges. It is based in the Netherlands to ensure the safety of the staff and an impartial trial.

"I don't agree with charging any Hezbollah members. They want to take us into a tunnel," said Nasrallah who last week described the tribunal as an "Israeli project."

Also Thursday, Lebanese judicial officials said a military court sentenced a Lebanese man, Hassan al-Hussein, to death for spying for Israel. It was the third such sentence this year.