Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The trial of four Hezbollah members suspected of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hairi continued on Friday, with the prosecution outlining telecom evidence used to identify the Hezbollah suspects. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon also heard evidence about the alleged false claim of responsibility for the 2005 attack by a man named Abu Adass. In a video recording aired after the attack, Abu Adass claimed to have carried out the suicide bombing on behalf of the fictitious Sunni Nusra and Jihad in Greater Syria group.
Nine years after the central Beirut explosion that killed Hariri and 21 others, Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra, who are affiliated with the Shi’ite Hezbollah, remain in hiding following international efforts to apprehend them.
In his opening statements, Prosecutor Norman Farrell said that the Lebanese people have the right to know the truth about the assassination which “captured the attention of the world.”
The prosecution showed CCTV footage of the explosive-rigged Mitsubishi van before it encountered the Hariri’s convoy, confirming that the bomb that targeted the former Lebanese prime minister’s convoy contained two tons of RDX, a highly explosive material used for military purposes.
The prosecution’s findings also revealed that Ahmed Abu Adass, an Islamist who claimed responsibility for the attack, was not the perpetrator. Remains of the suicide bomber did not match DNA samples taken from Abu Adass’s family members.
The prosecution outlined the telecom evidence used to identify the Hezbollah suspects, revealing that Oneissi had been in the vicinity of the Arab University Mosque where Abu Adass regularly prayed, adding that he had also been in contact with Assad Sabra and Hassan Merhi, a fifth Hezbollah suspect accused of involvement in the bombing. The prosecution detailed the so-called “purple network” of telephones used by the group it accuses of orchestrating both Hariri’s assassination and Abu Adass’s false confession.
Abu Adass made international headlines following what has now been revealed to be a false claim of responsibility for the assassination. A Sunni Palestinian living in Beirut, the prosecution put forward the theory that Abu Adass had been used as a scapegoat by the Hezbollah suspects. The last known sighting of Abu Adass was with a man he met at the mosque known as Mohammed—a man the prosecution claims was Oneissi under a false name.
Marwan Hamadeh, a Lebanese MP who was close to Hariri, said that the trial “brought back a painful incident but also raises major questions about the future of Lebanon.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The tribunal has begun to unfold successfully today, completely justifying the time it took the prosecutors to begin the trial.”
Hamadeh said that the trial raises questions about the future of relations within Lebanon given the “scale of the conspiracy against Hariri, its meticulous organization and preparation and the enormous potential exploited by those who carried out the [assassination].”
Hamadeh, who himself survived an attempt on his life in October 2004, praised the international efforts that helped to set up the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Rarely have I or anyone been given the chance to attend such a civilized trial that protects the rights of everybody,” adding, “Perhaps this sets an example to Arab, and particularly the Lebanese, judiciaries.”