Naharnet

Merhi Defense Presents Opening Statement in Hariri Murder Trial

The defense team of Hizbullah member Hassan Merhi told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Thursday that it should not rush the trial in ex-PM Rafik Hariri's assassination before giving it the adequate time to prepare for the proceedings.

The lead counsel said on the second day of the trial's resumption that Merhi's lawyers are unable to develop a detailed line of defense because the trial started in a staggered manner.

Mohamed Aouini claimed that the prosecution did not put forward any motive for the crime, which the defense will explore.

“The defense will endeavor to protect the interests of the accused on the basis of a possible later appearance of the accused,” he said.

Prosecutors presented their opening statement on Wednesday, describing Merhi as a “key player” in the Feb. 2005 attack.

Merhi “played a significant and leading role” in identifying a suitable scapegoat to blame for the bombing and befriending of Abou Adas, who made the false claim of responsibility for the attack through a tape broadcast on al-Jazeera.

Prosecutors say Abou Adas cannot be the suicide bomber of the Mitsubishi van that targeted Hariri's motorcade on the Beirut seafront because his DNA has never been found at the crime scene.

The five suspects, who are being tried in absentia, are Merhi, Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra and Hassan Oneissi. They are all Hizbullah members.

The party denies involvement in the murder and its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has denounced the court as a conspiracy by his archenemies — the U.S. and Israel.

The prosecution's case is made up of evidence including large amounts of data from mobile phones allegedly used by the plotters to plan and execute the suicide bombing.

Next Tuesday, the Trial Chamber will start hearing the evidence of five prosecution witnesses.

G.K.

M.T.


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