Suspect in killing of former Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri charged with three more political murders

Suspect in killing of former Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri charged with three more political murders
2 min read
16 September, 2019
The Hezbollah suspect has been indicted for the killings of three others.
Hariri was killed along with 21 others in a 2005 bombing [Getty]
A UN-backed court on Monday indicted the man accused of murdering former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri with charges related to three other attacks, marking the first new case taken on by the tribunal since its outset in 2007.

Salim Ayyash is one of four suspected members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah charged with assassinating Hariri with a massive truck bomb in Beirut in 2005.

The former prime minister was allegedly killed for his opposition to Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

Hariri's assassination was the trigger to the "Cedar Revolution" which led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the neighbouring country.

Ayyash has also been charged by a pre-trial judge with terrorism and murder over a series of deadly attacks on other politicians in 2004 and 2004, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said on Monday.

Judge Daniel Fransen "lifted today the confidentiality of his decision confirming an indictment against Mr Salim Jamil Ayyash relating to the attacks," said the tribunal based in a suburb just outside The Hague.

"The confirmation of this indictment marks the opening of a new case before the STL."

The first attack Ayyash is charged with saw Druze MP and former minister Marwan Hamade wounded in October 2004. His bodyguard was killed, the tribunal said.

The second attack in June 2005 killed the former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party Georges Hawi and injured two other people.

Another attack killed one person and injured the then defence minister Elias El-Murr and 14 others.

The special tribunal was established by UN decree in 2007 and opened in the Hague suburb of Leidschendam in 2009.

The court is unique in international justice because it is trying four defendants in absentia over the attack that killed 21 people besides Hariri and wounded 226.

The defendants, including Ayyash, went on trial in 2014 accused of core roles in the Valentine's Day attack on Beirut's waterfront targeting Hariri, who resigned in October 2004 over Syria's role in his country.

Ayyash is accused of leading the team that carried out the attack, while Assad Sabra and Hussein Oneissi allegedly sent a fake video to the Al-Jazeera news channel claiming responsibility on behalf of a made-up group. 

Hassan Habib Merhi is accused of general involvement in the plot.

Some have also pointed to the possible role of the Syrian regime in Hariri's assassination.

Their whereabouts are currently unknown. 

The alleged mastermind, Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, was indicted by the court but is now believed to have died while leading the militia's forces fighting with the Syrian regime in May 2016.

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