On Thursday, judges at the Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) convicted two men with charges of terrorism and murder for participating in the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
The prosecutions were appealed against the convicted two men, Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi.
The judges issued that the previous trials had faultily assessed the evidence based on millions of phone records and telecommunications data involving Hassan Merhi and Hussein Oneissi, who were then tried in absentia.
The ex-PM Saad Hariri criticized Hezbollah on Thursday for “protecting the criminals.” He said having “full confidence and complete commitment to what the Special Tribunal for Lebanon issues in the case of the assassination” of his father “as well as in the connected cases.”
Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14th, 2005, in an intricate operation involving a complex telecom network and two tonnes of a high-grade explosion.
The explosion was triggered by a suicide bomber in a Mitsubishi Canter truck and killed 21 other persons.
The defendants in the suicide bomber were: Salim Ayyash, Hassan Merhi, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra.
These individuals were found to be affiliated with Hezbollah and were also found to be conspiring with others, namely Mustafa Badreddine, who also took part in the assassination.
In August 2020, Salim Ayyash was found guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” of five charges, including:
conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act;
Committing a terrorist act using an explosive device;
Intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri with premeditation by using explosive materials;
Intentional homicide of 21 other persons with premeditation by using explosive materials;
Attempted intentional homicide of 226 persons with premeditation by using explosive materials.
While the accused were all linked to Hezbollah, the investigation had pointed back in August 2020 to no evidence that the Iran-backed militia, or the Syrian government, were directly responsible or involved in the killing of Rafik Hariri.
STL Presiding Judge David Re had declared back then: “The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri and his political allies, however, there is no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement.”