STL President Again Urges Merhi to Appear before Court, Appoint Lawyer

Special Tribunal for Lebanon President David Baragwanath on Friday urged the suspect Hassan Habib Merhi anew to appear before the court and appoint a lawyer to represent him.

“Seven weeks ago, on October 21, 2013, I invited you to consider whether you are prepared to face the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to answer the charges in the indictment,” Baragwanath said in a written statement addressed to Merhi.

“These are very serious charges, including acts of terrorism and murder. I urge you to get legal advice and appoint a lawyer to represent you before the Tribunal,” the judge added.

“As an alternative to appearing in person in the Netherlands, you may have the right to participate in hearings by video-conference,” Baragwanath noted, addressing Merhi.

On October 21, Baragwanath had announced the confirmation of an indictment accusing Merhi of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, for which four other accused are to be tried in absentia. The trial will begin on January 16, 2014.

“The Lebanese authorities have so far been unable to locate Mr Merhi. I have therefore ordered the service of the indictment in alternative modes, which include public advertisement. If, following such procedures, Mr. Merhi has not been brought under the Tribunal’s authority, the Trial Chamber will be asked to decide whether to initiate proceedings against him in absentia,” Baragwanath said on October 21.

The court had delivered on Oct. 11 posters of Merhi to the Lebanese authorities “for the purpose of public advertisement.”

The confirmed indictment and an arrest warrant were transmitted confidentially to the Lebanese authorities on August 6 so that they could “search for, arrest and transfer the accused to STL custody.”

The Lebanese authorities were given 30 calendar days to carry out this obligation and report back on their efforts by September 5, 2013. On Sep. 6, the Lebanese Prosecutor General submitted his confidential report to the tribunal's president, stating that the accused was not found.

Merhi is charged with a number of crimes including "the crime of conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act." He is alleged to have acted in a conspiracy with Hizbullah members Mustafa Amin Badreddine, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra in relation to the attack on February 14, 2005, all of whom have already been indicted.

The accused Merhi is alleged to have coordinated the preparation of the purported claim of responsibility as part of the preparations for and in furtherance of, the attack, said the STL.

The STL said Merhi is “a supporter of Hizbullah” who was born on December 12, 1965 in Beirut. “He is the son of Habib Merhi and Latifa Abbas,” it added, revealing that he has resided in Burj al-Barajneh and that “he is a citizen of Lebanon.”

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli conspiracy against his party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects will never be found.

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