STL Prosecution: Syrian Regime at Core of Hariri Assassination Conspiracy

The Prosecution of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon announced Tuesday that the Syrian regime was at the heart of the conspiracy that killed ex-PM Rafik Hariri.

At the beginning of its closing arguments at the STL's headquarters in The Hague, the Prosecution also described slain Hizbullah military commander Mustafa Badreddine as the mastermind of the assassination operation.

The Prosecution noted that Badreddine was a senior Hizbullah official and that his military expertise reflected itself in the modus operandi of Hariri's assassination.

It also said that Hizbullah suspect Salim Ayyash led a six-person assassination squad and that there is irrefutable evidence that condemns the four Hizbullah suspects.

Moreover, the Prosecution added that the “green phone network” that oversaw Hariri's assassination fully belonged to Hizbullah.

Prosecutors said their case -- which relies on mobile phone records allegedly showing the suspects conducting intense surveillance of Hariri from just after his resignation until minutes before the blast -- was "circumstantial" but "compelling."

Prosecuting counsel Nigel Povoas said the huge scale of the attack "undoubtedly had a political purpose" linked to Hariri's opposition to Damascus' long involvement in Lebanon.

"The scene was plunged into darkness and horror, cars were eviscerated, incinerated and on fire, people were on fire. Lebanon itself was plunged into darkness and horror, that was exactly what was intended by the attack," he told the court.

"Hariri was perceived by those who supported Syrian control as a severe threat to their interests and security, a proxy of the West," he told the court. "This is the reason, the non-personal motive, behind the crime."

Prosecutors said the suspects had been feted in Tehran and Damascus, Hizbullah's backers.

In its “Final Trial Brief” published on the court's website, the Prosecution had explained the links between Hizbullah and the supposed assassination squads, drawing attention to meetings and phone calls between senior Hizbullah official Wafiq Safa and former Syrian security chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh that preceded the February 2005 attack.

Explaining the link between political tensions in Lebanon and the activities of the four alleged mobile phone networks that were supposedly used in the assassination, the report says “significant steps taken by the opposition coalition and ultimately by Hariri, their powerful ally, to resist, defy and challenge the Syrian regime's hegemony corresponded with a reaction of the four phone networks.”

Source: Naharnet, Agence France Presse

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