Lawyers of Hezbollah suspect in Hariri assassination trial calls for acquittal

Former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri gestures to supporters from his car in Beirut 03 September 2000. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Lawyers of Hezbollah suspect in Hariri assassination trial calls for acquittal

LEIDSCHENDAM: Lawyers for one of four alleged Hezbollah members accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri called Tuesday on judges at a UN-backed tribunal to acquit him, saying prosecutors have not presented enough evidence for a conviction.
“Even taken at its highest, the prosecution evidence is not sufficient” to convict Hussein Hassan Oneissi, his lawyer Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
None of the four suspects is in custody and the trial at a courtroom just outside The Hague, Netherlands, is progressing in their absence. The Feb. 14, 2005, truck bombing in Beirut killed Hariri and 21 others and injured more than 220 passers-by.
Earlier this month, prosecutors wrapped up their case after four years. They called more than 260 witnesses and showed judges some 2,470 exhibits as they laid out their case that the four suspects plotted together to blow up Hariri with a massive truck bomb.
Defense attorneys have not yet presented any evidence. Lawyers for the three other suspects are not calling for acquittals at this stage of the trial.
All four suspects insist they are innocent and the Hezbollah militant group also denies involvement in Hariri’s assassination.
The case against a fifth suspect was halted in 2016 after he was killed in Syria.
Oneissi is charged as an accomplice and co-conspirator in the plot. Prosecutors accuse him of organizing a video-taped false claim of responsibility intended to shield the true perpetrators of the devastating bombing.
No time frame has been given for judges to rule on Courcelle-Labrousse’s motion for acquittal.


Syria state media says US-led coalition hits regime position in east

Washington said the strikes were in retaliation for an attack on its own personnel and SDF forces. (AFP)
Updated 26 min 35 sec ago
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Syria state media says US-led coalition hits regime position in east

  • In the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian government forces have carried out parallel but separate offensives against Daesh
  • Regime forces control land west of the Euphrates River that runs through the province

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said overnight Sunday to Monday that US-led coalition aircraft had carried out a deadly strike on a regime position in the country’s east near the Iraqi border.
Both US-backed Kurdish-led fighters and Russia-supported regime forces are separately fighting the Daesh jihadist group in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
“Aircraft of the American coalition bombarded one of our military positions in the area of Al-Hari southeast of Albu Kamal” town in Deir Ezzor, state news agency SANA reported a military source as saying, adding a number of people had been killed.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” in areas they controlled.
But the jihadists have since lost most of that territory, in Syria seeing their presence largely reduced to the country’s vast desert and a few villages near the frontier with Iraq.
In the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian government forces have carried out parallel but separate offensives against Daesh.
Regime forces control land west of the Euphrates River that runs through the province, while the SDF are battling to expel IS from a string of villages on the river’s eastern banks near the Iraqi border.
Both sides have mostly avoided running into each other and a deconfliction line exists to avoid such incidents.
But there have been exceptions.
In April, rare clashes broke out between both sides, killing more than a dozen combatants.
In February, the US-led coalition backing the SDF carried out air strikes in Deir Ezzor province that killed at least 100 pro-regime fighters.
Washington said the strikes were in retaliation for an attack on its own personnel and SDF forces.