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Hariri tribunal to bring formal charges against suspects

This file photo taken on February 14, 2005 shows a general view of the site of an explosion in Beirut, in which Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was killed. (AFP photo)

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) says it has now ample evidence to bring charges against four people suspected of involvement in an explosion 13 years ago that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The United Nations-backed tribunal said on Wednesday from The Hague, where it is based, that the judges in the case had reached a conclusion that the bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri was a terrorist act.

The judges said in a statement that prosecutors had presented evidence that “could” lead to convictions for the four people accused in the case.

The STL opened its inquiry into Hariri’s death in 2009. A total of five people, all of them affiliated to the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, have been accused by the court of having a role in the explosion on February 14, 2005 in central Beirut that also left 21 other people killed. Charges against Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah commander, were dropped after he was killed in Syria in May 2016. The four others, namely Hussein Oneissi, Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra and Hassan Merhi, are at large and being tried in absentia.

Hezbollah has recurrently denied any involvement in Hariri’s alleged assassination. The group has accused the STL of being influenced by certain governments in the Middle East and in the West which are basically opposed to the resistance in Lebanon.

The STL had announced on Monday that it would review defenses presented by Oneissi’s lawyer to see whether charges against him could be dropped.

However, the Wednesday announcement showed that the court seeks to formally indict Oneissi and the three other suspects in the case.

There was no immediate comment from either the Lebanese government or from the Hezbollah.

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