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Hariri indictment does not involve us – Hezbollah | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – A Hezbollah delegation visited the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, in Dar el-Fatwa [Office of the Sunni Muslim Authority in Lebanon], following a severance of communication between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim authority for more than 3 years. This meeting occurred in conjunction with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon [STL] issuing its indictment. The Hezbollah delegation was made up of the head of the Hezbollah Political Council Sayyed Ibrahim Amine Assayed, in addition to Sheikh Abdul-Majid Ammar, Mohammad Saleh, and Amin al-Shiri.

Following this meeting, Sayyed Ibrahim Assayed said that he would not comment on the STL indictment. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the head of the Hezbollah Political Council stressed that “as far as we are concerned the indictment was issued in the international sphere…that is why I do not want to comment in the media about what was published by a Canadian media outlet months ago, and what was reported by Der Spiegal years ago. This issue does not involve us, and we have not investigated this issue, and we will not go into this issue now.”

In a speech broadcast across the Arab world, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that the STL indictment – which implicated 4 alleged Hezbollah members – aimed to cause sectarian strife in Lebanon. He stressed “what’s happening now is an attempt at undermining and sabotaging the social fabric [of Lebanon]; paving the ground for wars and civil strife, dragging the resistance into civil strife and consequently striking the resistance and harming its credibility.”

Nasrallah added “this indictment only boosts our confidence today that what is happening is a high level of injustice and politicization.”

The text of the STL indictment read that “the four accused participated in a conspiracy with others aimed at committing a terrorist act to assassinate Rafik Hariri” revealing that “their respective roles may be summarized as follows: [Mustafa] Badreddine served as the overall controller of the operation; [Salim Jamil] Ayyash coordinated the assassination team, which was responsible for the physical perpetration of the attack; [Hussein Hassan] Oneissi and [Assad Hasan] Sabra had the task of preparing the false claim of responsibility which served to identify the wrong people to investigate, in order to shield the conspirators from justice. As participants in the conspiracy, all four accused played important roles in the attack on 14 February 2005 and therefore all four bear criminal responsibility for the results of the attack.”

As for whether the Hezbollah’s meeting with the Grand Mufti of Lebanon comes within the framework of putting an end to the state of tension between the Future movement and Hezbollah, Assayed said that “we shook his [the Grand Mufti’s] hand in this regard, and we are always open to dialogue and understanding. We are open to any solution that contributes to reducing the state of tension, and avoiding the strife that the US and Israel wants to see in Lebanon and the region. However this issue is not just about us or any other specific [political] party or trend, we have come in order to resolve this issue, and this is within the framework of strengthening national unity and Islamic unity.”

Sources close to the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani – the most senior Sunni figure in the country – told Asharq Al-Awsat that the atmosphere in the meeting was “excellent.” The source also revealed that “Hezbollah petitioned for this meeting following a severance [of relations] of more than 3 years.”

Sources who were present at the meeting between the Hezbollah delegation and the Grand Mufti of Lebanon told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Mufti Qabbani was clear that Dar el-Fatwa will, from now on, be the Dar for dialogue, reconciliation, and understanding, after experience has convinced us that this severance [of communication] was not in anybody’s interests.”

The source also spoke of “a new plan of action that will be adopted by the Mufti that requires the involvement of all parties.”

The source also clarified that “Hezbollah is today more eager than at any time before to avoid any spark that could incite any form of strife” adding that “the atmosphere within Dar el-Fatah is completely different than it was during the previous stage, and a new page has been opened in relations between Hezbollah and the Mufti.”

For his part, during the meeting Mufti Qabbani confirmed that “Dar el-Fatwa is the Dar for all the people of Lebanon, and it looks after their national and Islamic cases that are the focus of their attention and hopes.” The Grand Mufti of Lebanon also called for “the preservation of Islamic unity in a practical manner, through speech and behavior and engagement as a foundation to preserving Lebanese national unity. As well as the necessity of everybody seeking – also in a practical manner – to put an end to strife that is fueled by confrontational political rhetoric, which requires an end to accusatory and hateful rhetoric…which incites the feelings of the people of Lebanon against one another.”

In addition to this, Grand Mufti Qabbani also called for “all parties to be committed to substantive discourse that dispels concern and fear in the short-term and the long-term, as well as not defaming national symbols, for this reflects negatively on the Lebanese people in general and the Muslims in particular…and increases the division of the Lebanese street, and places Islamic unity at the risk of division and distrust.”

He added “nobody in Lebanon can denounce another, or impose his will on another, and the rising tone of inflammatory rhetoric – with the possibility of this being reflected on the street – is something that will be regretted by everybody, and the Lebanese people will be the victim.”

Relations between Dar al-Fatwa and Hezbollah were severed in 2008, against the backdrop of the so-called “7 May events”, which the Mufti of Lebanon criticized and denounced as an incursion on the sanctity of Beirut. Hezbollah-led opposition fighters seized control of a number of West Beirut neighborhoods in street battles that led a number of dead.