Lebanon’s opposition leader, former prime minister Saad Hariri, has defended a UN-backed court that indicted Hezbollah members in the 2005 murder of his father against “misleading accusations” by the Shiite group.
“After the indictment was issued, I decided it was time for me to speak, to rectify ... (Hezbollah leader) Hassan Nasrallah’s misleading accusations that the tribunal is Israeli, that its indictment was formed even before the investigation,” Mr. Hariri said in an interview on local television from Paris via video link.
“Even if Hassan Nasrallah holds 300 press conferences, that will not alter the indictment in any way,” added the former premier in his first public statement since March. “There are people accused who must now be represented before court.”
The Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon has indicted four members of Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of Mr. Hariri’s father, ex-premier Rafik Hariri.
Among those indicted by the tribunal for the Feb. 14, 2005, bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut is Mustafa Badreddine, the brother-in-law of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was assassinated three years ago in Damascus.
Mr. Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite militant group, has said he would never hand over the four. He has has repeatedly dismissed the tribunal as a US-Israeli conspiracy against his armed party.
Saad Hariri’s Western-backed unity government collapsed in January when Hezbollah and its allies pulled their ministers from government, capping a long-running feud over the tribunal.
The militant movement and its allies control the majority of seats in Lebanon’s new government. The indictment comes at a delicate time for Hezbollah, as its ally Syrian President Bashar Al Assad faces an unprecedented domestic uprising against his rule.
Mr. Hariri also denounced the “humanitarian crime” committed by Syria’s ruling regime as it cracks down on the protests, which broke out mid-March.
“The people of Syria have come out and said what they want, and what is happening in Syria today is a humanitarian crime,” said Mr. Hariri.
The Hariri murder sparked a wave of massive protests in Lebanon in 2005 that, combined with international pressure, forced Syria to withdraw its troops from the country, ending a 29-year deployment.
Syria was widely suspected of having a hand in Hariri’s murder but has denied any involvement.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon began operating in 2009 and is the first international court with jurisdiction to try an act of terrorism.