BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) on Monday issued five new charges against Hezbollah cadre Salim Ayyash relating to the killings of three men including former secretary-general of the Lebanese Communist Party, George Hawi.
Pre-trial judge, Daniel Fransen, also sent out warrants for the arrest of court fugitive Ayyash to the Lebanese government and international police organizations.
Ayyash is one of four defendants accused of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005 and is on trial in absentia.
Fransen declassified an indictment against Ayyash, born in 1963, concerning attacks targeting Lebanese ministers Marwan Hamadeh (assassination attempt, 2004) and Elias Murr (assassination attempt, 2005), and Hawi (assassination, 2005).
The pre-trial judge’s move opens the way for a new case before the international tribunal which was set up to try the killers of Hariri and other connected terrorist crimes.
Ayyash has been charged with five counts of “conspiracy to commit terrorist acts” which include the intentional homicide with premeditation of Ghazi Abou-Karroum, Khaled Moura and Hawi, and the attempted intentional homicide with premeditation of Murr, Hamadeh and 17 other people.
According to the STL’s press office, the confirmation of the indictment means that “the pre-trial judge is satisfied, based on the supporting materials, that the prosecutor has established a prima facie case against Mr. Salim Jamil Ayyash and that there are grounds to initiate trial proceedings.
“This is not a verdict of guilt and Mr. Ayyash is presumed innocent unless his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt at trial.”
The indictment and arrest warrant were transmitted to the Lebanese authorities, which “have the obligation to search for, arrest and transfer the accused to the STL’s custody.”
The STL said that Ayyash must now be formally notified of the charges against him. “If the accused cannot be found, the trial chamber may decide to try him in absentia.”
The press office said that following “reasonable attempts” to locate the accused and serve the indictment, the tribunal president could, after consulting the pre-trial judge, advertise the indictment in an effort to alert Ayyash of the need to appear before the tribunal and encourage anyone with information about his whereabouts to inform the tribunal.
It added: “If within 30 calendar days following such an advertisement, the accused is not under the tribunal’s authority, the pre-trial judge shall ask the trial chamber to initiate proceedings in absentia.”
In February, the STL concluded trials in absentia of four men accused of masterminding and executing the assassination of Hariri and is expected to rule on the defendants Assad Hassan Sabra (born 1976), Hussein Hassan Enissi (born 1974), Hassan Habib Merhi (born 1965), and Ayyash.
The STL overturned the prosecution of a fifth defendant, Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed in a mysterious operation in the Syrian capital Damascus in 2016.
The STL has more than 6 million papers and documents relating to the case.