Last Updated: Fri Sep 28, 2012 17:41 pm (KSA) 14:41 pm (GMT)

Lebanon failing to cooperate with Hariri court: defense

Wreaths depicting pictures of Lebanon's assassinated former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri are seen on his grave site in downtown, Beirut. (Reuters)
Wreaths depicting pictures of Lebanon's assassinated former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri are seen on his grave site in downtown, Beirut. (Reuters)

Lebanon has ignored repeated requests to cooperate with a U.N.-backed court probing billionaire ex-premier Rafiq Hariri’s 2005 murder, defense lawyers said Friday.

Lawyers also lambasted prosecutors before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) for delays in handing over evidence they needed for the trial in absentia of four Hezbollah members accused of involvement with the massive bombing.

“The defense respectfully requests... that the judge order the Lebanese government to search for, identify and provide the material sought,” said lawyers for Assad Sabra, one of the accused.

Beirut should “comply with the judge’s order no more than four weeks” after the ruling, the lawyers added in a document made public by the court based in the leafy suburb of Leidschendam just outside The Hague.

Lebanon’s current government coalition is dominated by the fundamentalist Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah while the Western-backed opposition is led by Rafiq’s son Saad Hariri, also a former prime minister.

Sabra’s defense has written “multiple letters” to ask Beirut for help and although the Lebanese government responded, defense lawyers have not received any information to help their case.

“The Lebanese authorities have thus far given only a pretense of cooperation by acknowledging receipt of requests or seemingly addressing some, but no actual cooperation,” the lawyers said.

Information requested included Sabra’s “last known whereabouts including any information that he may still be alive”.

Hariri, a billionaire Sunni Muslim politician, was killed on February 14, 2005 in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront along with another 22 people, including a suicide bomber.

The STL announced in July that the trial of four Hezbollah members would provisionally start on March 25 next year, even though the defendants are still at large.

Warrants have been issued against Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Anaissi and Assad Sabra, but Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said the STL is a US-Israeli conspiracy and vowed none of the suspects would be arrested.

The STL is the only international court that has a mandate to try suspects in absentia and was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution at Lebanon’s request.

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