STL Defense: Lebanon Failing to Cooperate with Tribunalإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Lebanon has ignored repeated requests to cooperate with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon probing former Premier Rafik Hariri's 2005 murder, defense lawyers said Friday.
Lawyers also lambasted prosecutors before the tribunal for delays in handing over evidence they needed for the trial in absentia of four Hizbullah members accused of involvement with the bombing.
"The defense respectfully requests... that the judge order the Lebanese government to search for, identify and provide the material sought," said lawyers for Assad Sabra, one of the accused in a court document.
Beirut should "comply with the judge's order no more than four weeks" after the ruling, Sabra's lawyers added in the paper, made public by the court based in the leafy suburb of Leidschendam just outside The Hague.
Sabra's defense has written "multiple letters" to ask Beirut for help and although the Lebanese government responded, defense lawyers have not received any information to help their case.
"The Lebanese authorities have thus far given only a pretense of cooperation by acknowledging receipt of requests or seemingly addressing some, but no actual cooperation," his lawyers said in the document.
Information requested included Sabra's "last known whereabouts including any information that he may still be alive".
Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005 in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront along with another 22 people, including a suicide bomber.
The STL announced in July that the trial of four Hizbullah members would provisionally start on March 25 next year, even though the defendants are still at large.
Warrants have been issued against Salim Ayyash, 48, Mustafa Badreddine, 51, Hussein Oneissi 38, and Assad Sabra, 35, but Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said the STL is a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy and vowed none of the suspects would be arrested.
Badreddine is accused of being the "brains" behind the attack while Ayyash allegedly coordinated the team.
Oneissi and Sabra allegedly made a videotape pretending another group had claimed responsibility for the attack, then sent the tape to Arab television network Al-Jazeera.
At Friday's hearing, defense lawyers also sharply criticized prosecutors, asking Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen to order the prosecution to disclose reports compiled by their experts.
"You must intervene please and order the prosecution to disclose these reports," in a timely fashion, said one of Ayyash's lawyers, Eugene O'Sullivan.
"We are doing our best, your Honor," regarding the reports, prosecutor Gregory Townsend told the judge.
Hizbullah denies involvement in the bombing that killed Hariri and was initially blamed on Syria. International outcry in the wake of the murder led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from its smaller neighbor.
Regional turbulence including the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime in Syria and the threat of that violence spilling over into Lebanon have led many to question the court's relevancy today.