On Feb. 14, 2005, more than one ton of explosives claimed the lives of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 22 of his companions and innocent passers-by.
From that point onwards, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has been conducting a series of investigations to determine the identity of the assassins. This was accompanied by a strong upheaval in Lebanon as well as in the entire region. Lebanon suffered a sharp division between the March 14 bloc, headed by The Future Movement under the leadership of Hariri’s son Saad al-Hariri and his allies, on one hand and the March 8 bloc headed by Hassan Nasrallah and his allies on the other.
This division reached its peak when the balance of power tipped in favor of Hezbollah and its allies Iran and Syria. But the investigations continued until Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare accused four Hezbollah senior officials of taking part in the assassination.
“In Search for Hariri’s Murderers” is a three-part documentary screened on Al Arabiya on Friday. The second and third parts will be shown on Thursday Feb. 9 and Friday Feb.10, respectively.
The film recounts the details of the investigation from 2005 till the present against the backdrop of the complicated political and regional circumstances in which they have been taking place.
After the fall of Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Syrian regime tried to protect itself through securing another term in office for its ally former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and stopping Hariri from getting a parliamentary majority in the Lebanese general election that was scheduled for summer 2005.
Renewing Lahoud’s presidency, however, was met with reservations on the part of the International Community and drove the United States and France to issue Security Council resolution number 1559 which called for respecting the Lebanese constitution, the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the disarmament of militias.
It was in this context that Hariri was assassinated, but he was neither the first nor the last. In October 2004, former MP and Minister Marwan Hamadeh escaped an attempt on his life as he was going out of his house. After that a series of assassinations took the lives of politicians, journalists, and intellectuals who all have one thing in common: opposition to the Syrian regime and the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon.
After Hariri, journalist Samir Kassir, former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party George Hawi, editor of An-Nahar newspaper Gebran Tueni, MP Walid Eido, Phalange member Pierre Amine Gemayel, and others were assassinated. Very few survived such attempts like former Defense Minister Elias Murr and anchor May Chidiac.
The documentary traces the several stages of the investigation into Hariri’s assassination since German judge Detlev Mehlis headed the investigations committee and issued its first report which stirred much controversy after pointing fingers at the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence agencies and demanding the arrest of the four officers Jamil al-Sayed, Ali al-Hajj, Rimone Azer, and Mustafa Hemdan.
The film also explores the drastic events Lebanon underwent in parallel to the investigations like the July 2006 war, the emergence of Fatah al-Islam and its defeat in the Nahr al-Bared campaign, and Hezbollah’s taking over of Beirut to force Fouad al-Siniora’s majority government out and open a new chapter of Syrian-Iranian influence in Lebanon.
Despite changes in the balance of power and the collapse of Saad al-Hariri’s government, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon still carried out its mission in The Hague. At this point, the documentary sheds light on the documents based on which the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the tribunal accused Hezbollah’s late strong man Emad Moughniyeh as well as other members of Hezbollah such as Mustafa Badr al-Din and Salim al-Ayyash of plotting Hariri’s assassination.
The film also focuses on the major role played by Lebanese officer Wessam Eid in uncovering the cell phone network that led to determining the identity of the suspects as well as to Eid’s assassination.
In Search for Hariri’s Murderers includes several interviews with public figures who bore witness to the assassination and its aftermath: former MP and minister Marwan Hamadeh, the director of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces General Ashraf Rifi, former Lebanese prime ministers Fouad al-Siniora and Saad al-Hariri.
In addition, the film features interviews with Hezbollah MPs Hussein al-Hajj and Nawar al-Saheli, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt, former MP Fares Boueiz, German judge Detlev Mehlis, former U.S. ambassador in Beirut David Satterfield, former U.S. ambassador in the Security Council, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Carpenter, former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, and Syrian ambassador in Washington Emad Mustafa.
Former deputy representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Lebanon the late Kamal Medhat gave a special interview to the film about his experience with the Nahr al-Bared battle before he himself was killed during the events.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)