Prosecutor files Hariri indictment in Lebanon
Beirut, January 18, 2011
The prosecutor of the UN-backed tribunal issued on Monday a draft indictment over the 2005 killing of statesman Rafik Al-Hariri, a long-anticipated move that has touched off a Lebanese political crisis.
Last week the militant Shi'ite Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government of Saad Al-Hariri, the slain man's son, and the group said it would not back Hariri for another term.
The escalation in political tension has alarmed regional leaders, who met in Syria on Monday in efforts to try to overcome the deadlock and prevent it from turning violent.
Deep divisions among Lebanese parties and their powerful regional backers reflect violent religious, ethnic and political rivalries running through the Middle East and beyond, giving leaders from Washington to Tehran a role in Beirut's crisis.
The contents of the draft indictment, which will now be reviewed by pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen, were not revealed.
Details of the charge sheet may not emerge for another six to 10 weeks, when Fransen is expected to decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.
But Lebanese officials and Western diplomats have said they expected the court to accuse members of Hezbollah of involvement in the assassination. Hezbollah denies any such role and has described the tribunal as "Israeli tool".
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said last year he will not allow the arrest of any of the group's members. The group had asked Hariri to renounce the tribunal, withdraw the Lebanese judges and freeze Lebanon's funding of it.
Hariri's rejection of the demands triggered the resignation of 11 ministers from Hezbollah and its allies last week.
"The prosecutor of the tribunal has submitted an indictment and supporting materials to the pre-trial judge," the UN-backed tribunal said in a statement.
Hezbollah officials declined to comment. But Hezbollah's Al-Manar television said in its news bulletin that the United States was behind the release of the draft indictment in order to sabotage efforts to solve Lebanon's crisis. - Reuters