Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Nasrallah puts Hezbollah in the dock | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Hezbollah is preparing itself to face the greatest challenge in its history, when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon [STL] reveals the truth behind the assassination of [former Lebanese Prime Minister] Rafik Hariri live on air all across the world. Following this, the image that Hezbollah has created for itself – as a representative of the resistance which defends Lebanon against Israeli aggression – will collapse. Rather than defending the people of Lebanon from others, the STL evidence may reveal that Hezbollah collaborated with a foreign state to kill the greatest Lebanese statesman, in order – ultimately – to seize power and control the country.

After spending two and a half years investigating the case of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the STL issued its indictment, which revealed a link between four Hezbollah defendants and the attack that resulted in the death of Hariri. The prosecution presented circumstantial evidence, obtained via telephone records, revealing that a network of five mobile telephones had taken part in the assassination. It appeared that the accused had monitored Hariri’s movements for around three months before carrying out the operation. The STL arrest warrants revealed that suspect number one is Mustafa Amine Badreddine, who reportedly supervised the [al-Hariri] assassination. He is an important member of Hezbollah and the brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah commander who was assassinated by Israel in Damascus. Salim Jamil Ayyash was responsible for coordinating the group that actually carried out the assassination. After the assassination had been carried out, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra attempted to mislead the investigation by contacting media outlets and claiming that someone named Ahmed Abu Adas, a member of the “Nasra and Jihad group”, was responsible for killing al-Hariri. As the STL pre-trial judge had deemed evidence provided by General Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare sufficient to proceed to trial, he ordered that his decision confirming the indictment, as well as the indictment itself, be made public on 17 August, 2011, in preparation for the commencement of the trial in approximately 4 months.

At the same time as the STL issued its indictment, German magazine “Der Spiegel” ran an article claiming that the STL was in possession of information indicating that Iranian authorities had participated in the preparations for the Hariri assassination. According to the article, the four Hezbollah suspects received special training for the execution of this operation in the Khomeini camp near the Iranian city of Qom, a year prior to the assassination. The German magazine also claimed that three of the suspects had fled Lebanon and are now living in Iran.

Hezbollah could have – so long as it proclaims the innocence of the four suspects – allowed them to appear before court to defend themselves, whether in The Hague or on television screens from Lebanon, to prove their innocence regarding the crime of assassinating al-Hariri. However Nasrallah fell into the very same trap that he was trying to avoid. For after Hezbollah’s Secretary General rejected the possibility of members of his organization standing trial, the STL decided to make public part of the indictment against the Hezbollah suspects, and to try them in absentia. In other words, the non-presence of the suspects will not prevent the STL General Prosecutor from presenting his evidence and airing [Hezbollah’s] dirty laundry in public. Therefore instead of charges being brought against four suspects, the case has now been transformed into the trial of Hezbollah. This is something that will prompt Hezbollah to defend itself via [Hezbollah affiliated] al-Manar TV, which is indeed what happened. On the very same day that the STL made its indictment public, Hassan Nasrallah appeared on TV to refute this indictment, proclaim an assault on his person, and a US attack on Hezbollah. Nasrallah also promised that Hezbollah would examine the charges and refute them. By doing this, Nasrallah has placed Hezbollah in the dock, rather than the four wanted suspects, even though the STL has never issued a direct accusation at Hezbollah.

In Tehran, the Iranian authorities tried to defend themselves with the same slogans that are continually being raised by Hezbollah, and by claiming that the STL was politicized. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the STL was “motivated by worthless political aims.” However, such claims themselves will be proven worthless when the STL publishes the evidence and facts it has accumulated. When this happens, the trial will be transformed from a criminal trial to a political one. If Hezbollah and Iran fail to refute the charges leveled against the defendants, and prove that these charges are false, then millions of people across the world will be convinced that they were behind Hariri’s assassination.

In an attempt to win over the Lebanese public opinion, Nasrallah claimed that this was all part of a ploy to drive a wedge between Hezbollah – which he still considers a representative of the resistance – and the rest of Lebanon’s sects. Nasrallah spoke about the explosion which recently occurred in Beirut’s Christian district of Antelias, causing the deaths of two young men – believed to be Hezbollah members – who were reportedly carrying a bomb. How can Nasrallah attempt to reassure the people of Lebanon when he continues to threaten them day in and day out, and vows to give them hell if they do not acquiesce to the desire of what he alone deems “resistance”? How could the Lebanese people ever believe Nasrallah again if they found out that he welcomed and met with Rafik Hariri in his bunker every week for six months, whilst four of his comrades were training to assassinate him? How can the Lebanese people believe Nasrallah, after he toppled the Saad Hariri government simply because the former Lebanese Prime Minister refused to give up on the STL, and was committed to uncovering his father’s killers? How can the Lebanese people believe anything Nasrallah has to say before they find out who truly is responsible for the death of the greatest statesman and politician in Lebanese history? How can they believe Nasrallah when he continues to reject that those accused of Hariri’s assassination be brought to trial, indeed when these suspects are being sheltered from justice under Hezbollah’s wing?

Hezbollah exploited the slogan of “resistance” and succeeded in building a military organization that was able to impose its will on the Lebanese government and people. If Nasrallah fails to refute the evidence and indictment put forward by the STL, then Hezbollah’s mask will finally have slipped, and the “resistance” myth will finally be put to bed in Lebanon, just as it has in Syria.