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Lebanon Tribunal convicts two more people in Hariri assassination case

The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon at Leidschendam, the Netherlands (file photo by AFP)

The Lebanon Tribunal has convicted two more people on charges of terrorism and murder for their role in the 2005 assassination of then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, reversing their earlier acquittal.

In a summary of the judgment read out in court on Thursday, Presiding judge Ivana Hrdlickova said, “The appeals chamber had unanimously decided to reverse the acquittals. We unanimously find misters Merhi and Oneissi guilty.”

“The appeals chamber will issue arrest warrants for them later this afternoon,” she stated.

The court has not sentenced the pair yet and will set a new date for that matter. Sentencing is expected to wrap up by July 2022.

Appeals judges say the lower trial chamber “erred” in their assessment of Merhi and Oneissi’s case in 2020, considering only the mobile phone records.

Set up in 2009 to try those responsible for the assassination of Hariri and 21 other people, the court has already convicted Salim Jamil Ayyash, a former member of the Hezbollah resistance movement. But Merhi and Oneissi have been acquitted on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to convict them.

The court said at the time that it could not establish any link between the assassination and Hezbollah or the Syrian government.

“There is no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement,” said Judge David Re.

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on March 4 that he was not concerned about the proceedings, and that if any members of the resistance movement were claimed to be guilty, Hezbollah would stand by their innocence.

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