Last Updated: Tue Dec 07, 2010 19:13 pm (KSA) 16:13 pm (GMT)

Arrests over Hariri’s killing against the law: cables

Lebanon’s PM Saad Hariri visited Iran to seek help to defuse tensions over the UN tribunals
Lebanon’s PM Saad Hariri visited Iran to seek help to defuse tensions over the UN tribunals

Four Lebanese generals who were held in prison over the killing of Rafik Hariri were detained without a legal basis, according to a report given by U.N. investigator to U.S. diplomats three years before they were freed, a Lebanon-based newspaper reported on Monday.

Lebanon’s The Daily Star has cited leaked diplomatic cables from the U.S. embassy in Beirut, and said the documents will not be found on WikiLeaks as it obtained them exclusively.

The leaks showed that the investigators were frustrated by “insane” internal U.N. bureaucracy, and cooperation lacked even from countries that publicly supported the investigation over the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

U.N. investigators have been also eager to obtain U.S. satellite imagery to aid their probe.

Generals held without charge

 Brammertz explained that, if any sort of international legal standards were applied, the four generals would be released immediately 
One WikiLeaks cable quoted by The Daily Star

Major-General Jameel Al Syed, Brigadier-General Mustafa Hamdan, Major-General Ali Haj and Brigadier-General Raymond Azar were arrested at the time of the assassination in a climate charged with anti-Syrian sentiments.

As these generals were seen as pillars of a Lebanese state that was dominated by neighboring Syria, the German prosecutor, Detlev Mehlis, who headed the early stages of the Hariri’s probe, suggested that prominent Syria and Lebanese figures were behind it.

But less than a year, Mehlis's successor, Serge Brammertz, said there was no legal basis for their continued detention and suggested that political reasons were preventing their release.

"Brammertz explained that, if any sort of international legal standards were applied, the four generals would be released immediately," the paper quoted one cable.

The generals were eventually released in April 2009 after being held for nearly four years without charge.

Lack of cooperation

Other cables showed Brammertz's frustration at the lack of cooperation from European countries including France, which strongly supports the tribunal in public.

Another cable cited by the daily highlighted diplomats' concerns that the generals might seek revenge when freed.

Media reports have suggested the investigators' focus may have shifted from Syria to the Shiite group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah members are expected to be indicted at the end of December, but the group, which denies any role in the killing, says the tribunal is a deeply politicized project serving Israeli agendas.

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