Lebanon Hariri tribunal judgement postponed after Beirut blast

Lebanon Hariri tribunal judgement postponed after Beirut blast
A UN-backed tribunal said it had suspended a verdict on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri following the deadly blast in Beirut.
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Updated 05 August 2020

Lebanon Hariri tribunal judgement postponed after Beirut blast

Lebanon Hariri tribunal judgement postponed after Beirut blast
  • STL Trial Chamber postponed pronouncement of Judgment in the Ayyash et al. case, from 7 to 18 Aug.
  • Experts and video footage suggest fireworks, ammonium nitrate were the fuel that ignited the explosion

THE HAGUE: A UN-backed tribunal said Wednesday it had suspended a verdict on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri following the deadly blast in Beirut.
The court’s decision was due on Friday but the ruling has been postponed until August 18, the court said in a statement.
The death toll from Tuesday’s huge blast at Beirut port has risen to at least 113, Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hassan said earlier Wednesday.
It has been blamed on an unsecured store of ammonium nitrate at the port.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) “is deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic events that shook Lebanon yesterday,” the court said in a statement.
“The Tribunal expresses its solidarity with the Lebanese people in these difficult times.”
The STL issued “a scheduling order postponing the pronouncement of the judgment,” to August 18.
Four alleged members of Shiite group Hezbollah are on trial in absentia at the court in the Netherlands over the huge Beirut suicide bombing that killed Sunni billionaire Hariri and others in 2005.
The judgment harks back to an event that changed the face of the Middle East, with Hariri’s assassination triggering a wave of demonstrations that pushed Syrian forces out of Lebanon after 30 years.
The court is billed as the world’s first international tribunal set up to probe terrorist crimes, and it has cost at least $600 million since it opened its doors in 2009 following a UN Security Council resolution.
But the tribunal faces doubts over its credibility, with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah refusing to hand over the defendants and the case relying almost entirely on mobile phone records.
The four defendants went on trial in 2014 on charges including the “intentional homicide” of Hariri and 21 others, attempted homicide of the 226 people who were wounded in the bombing, and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.
Salim Ayyash, 56, is accused of leading the team that carried out the bombing, which involved a truck packed full of explosives that detonated near Hariri’s motorcade on February 14, 2005.
Assad Sabra, 43, and Hussein Oneissi, 46, allegedly sent a fake video to the Al-Jazeera news channel claiming responsibility on behalf of a made-up group.
Hassan Habib Merhi, 54, is accused of general involvement in the plot.
The alleged mastermind of the bombing, Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, was indicted by the court but is believed to have died while fighting with the Syrian government in May 2016.
The surviving suspects face life imprisonment if convicted, although sentencing will be carried out at a later date.
Both the prosecution and defense can appeal the judgment and sentence, while if a defendant is eventually arrested he can request a retrial.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Hariri was assassinated because he was perceived to be a “severe threat” to Syrian control of the country.
Hariri was Lebanon’s Sunni premier until his resignation in 2004 over Syria’s role as power-broker in the country.
The case was “circumstantial” but “compelling,” prosecutors said, resting on mobile phone records allegedly showing the suspects conducting intense surveillance of Hariri from just after his resignation until minutes before the blast.
The court’s flag was flown at half-mast on Wednesday “to honor those who lost their lives, who were wounded and who are still missing as a result of the explosion in Beirut.”
At least 4,000 people were injured by the explosion, while dozens of people remain missing as rescue efforts continue.
However the court in The Hague rules, the eventual verdict it will not be the end of its work, as it opened a second case last year charging prime suspect Ayyash with terrorism and murder over deadly attacks on politicians in 2004 and 2005.


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.