STL Hears Closing Arguments in Hariri Assassination Case

STL Hears Closing Arguments in Hariri Assassination Case

The trial launched in January 2014 into the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has entered the final phase on Tuesday, with prosecutors and defense lawyers making their final statements until September 21.

According to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the closing arguments are summaries of the case presented by the parties in the proceedings. They do not constitute a judgement.

Hariri's son Saad, who now serves as Lebanon's prime minister-designate, attended the session to observe the proceedings.

"We are still holding onto the truth and justice in order to know who stood behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri and all the martyrs who died in defense of Lebanon, and so that the killers would get their punishment," Hariri said.

The prosecution at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, led by Norman Farrell, will start by summarizing its case against the suspects.

Later, Peter Haines, the lead legal representative of the victims, and the defense team, headed by Dorothee Le Fraper du Hellen, will also make their final statements.

A huge car bombing in Beirut on 14 February 2005 murdered former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

The UN-backed tribunal indicted four Hezbollah suspects in absentia: Mustafa Badereddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra and Hassan Habib Merhi.

However, the case against the alleged mastermind of the bombing and the "overall controller of the operation" as described in the indictment, Mustafa Badreddine, was quashed after he had died while fighting in Syria in May 2016.

Of the remaining four, Ayyash, 50, is accused of co-ordinating the assassination team that carried out the attack, while Oneissi, 44, and Sabra, 41, "had the task of preparing the false claim of responsibility" which served to identify "the wrong people to investigate, in order to shield the conspirators from justice".

The final suspect, Merhi, 52, was indicted in 2013 for co-ordinating the preparation of the false claim of responsibility and of being in contact with Ayyash in relation to the preparations for the attack.

It is the first time a trial has happened without the suspects in the dock since 1945, when an international criminal jurisdiction was created for the Nuremberg trials after World War II.