Guest post by Natasha Lloyd-Owen and Bryce Braegger
16 January 2014 – The trial of four suspects accused of killing Lebanese parliamentarian Rafik Hariri and twenty one others began today at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), nine years after Mr. Hariri’s assassination. The Office of the Prosecutor delivered its opening statement to the court, introducing its case against the accused in the case of Ayyash et al. Defence counsel for two of the accused will also deliver opening statements and witnesses to the attack are expected to begin testifying next week.
The United Nations Security Council established the STL to investigate and prosecute those responsible for killing Mr. Hariri. Mr. Hariri, a former prime minister and member of parliament, was killed when his motorcade was struck by a car bomb on 14 February 2005. In 2011, the STL indicted four suspects in the attack: Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra; Mr. Sabra is represented by David Young of 9 Bedford Row.
The case has attracted a large media presence and there has been much speculation in the Lebanese media around the prosecution’s application to join a fifth suspect – Hassan Mehri – to the case, which may further delay the trial after its opening. The five accused are being tried in absentia, which is permitted under Lebanese law.
The start of the trial comes after years of investigations into the attack, and was highly anticipated by many in Lebanon. It also comes at a moment of severe unrest in Lebanon itself, with progress in forming a new Lebanese government slow and in the wake of a new wave of bombings similar to the one that killed Mr. Hariri.
Present at the first day of this long-awaited trial were families of the victims, including MP Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son, and MP Marwan Hamadeh, who was himself the target of an assassination attempt in October 2004.