Special Tribunal for Lebanon Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen issued on Thursday an order setting March 25, 2013 as a tentative date for trial to start in the Ayyash et al case, announced the tribunal in a statement.
“The order provides the parties and the victims' legal representatives with a concrete starting date allowing them to continue preparing for trial,” explained the statement.
"The setting of a provisional date for trial by Fransen is an important judicial step on the road to trial," said Marten Youssef, the tribunal's spokesperson.
The pre-trial judge issued his order after consulting with the Prosecution, Defense, presiding judge of the Trial Chamber, registrar and president of the STL.
The rules of the tribunal require the pre-trial judge to set a tentative date for trial, said the STL statement.
“That date may be subject to change pending further developments, such as the possibility of the Prosecutor filing a request to amend the indictment, or the arrest of an accused,” it added.
“It is also subject to the Trial Chamber's decision on the tribunal's jurisdiction and their rulings on other preliminary motions,” it stated.
In issuing the order, Fransen considered the complexity and the gravity of the case and the need for defense counsel to have enough time to prepare their defense and to conduct their investigations, it continued.
In the meantime, the Pre-Trial Judge intends to continue actively pursuing his mandate to prepare and facilitate a fair and expeditious trial, concluded the STL statement.
Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra are wanted for the February 2005 suicide car bomb attack in Beirut that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others, including the suicide bomber.
Ayyash has been named in the indictment as coordinator of the assassination team.
The court has said Lebanon must try harder to apprehend them.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said he doubted the four indictees will ever be found and has branded the tribunal a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy aimed at bringing down the party.
Ayyash and Badreddine face five charges including that of "committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device" and homicide, while Oneissi and Sabra faced charges of conspiring to commit the same acts.
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