Rafik Hariri billboards 311 R.
(photo credit: Ali Hashisho / Reuters)
BEIRUT - Four Hezbollah suspects in the killing of Rafik Hariri were
linked to the attack largely by circumstantial evidence gleaned from
phone records, according to an indictment published on Wednesday after a
six-year investigation which polarized Lebanon.
warrants for the men were issued in June by a UN-backed tribunal,
setting the stage for the case to go to trial, but none of the four have
been detained by Lebanese authorities and Hezbollah says they will
never be arrested.
Hezbollah hands over material for Hariri UN tribunal
Lebanon tribunal releases Hariri indictment details
suspects are Mustafa Amine Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah figure and
brother-in-law of slain Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyeh, as well as
Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra.
four accused participated in a conspiracy with others aimed at
committing a terrorist act to assassinate Rafik Hariri," said the
47-page indictment released by the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal
The Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah -- which is
backed by Iran and Syria -- has denied any role in the February 2005 bombing
which killed Hariri, a billionaire Sunni Muslim politician, and 21
other people on the Beirut seafront.
The killing plunged Lebanon
into a series of political crises and assassinations that led to clashes
in May 2008, and there were fears that the indictments could revive
sectarian tensions in a country still scarred by its 1975-1990 civil
Hezbollah, both a political movement and guerrilla army,
toppled the government of Hariri's son, Saad Hariri, in January after he
resisted calls to renounce the tribunal.Indictment identifies five phone lines, two covert
indictment said Badreddine served as overall commander of the operation
while Ayyash coordinated the assassination team. Oneissi and Sabra were
part of the conspiracy and prepared a false claim of responsibility, it
Wednesday's indictment, which was partly redacted, said
that analysis of communication records showed "the presence of a number
of interconnected mobile phone networks involved in the assassination of
It identified five networks, two of them 'covert' ones
used only to call members of the same group, and identified them by
The 'red network', used by members of the
assassination team, was "operational from 4 January 2005, until it
ceased all activity 2 minutes before the attack on 14 February 2005,"
the indictment said.
The location of those phones, and of another
'blue network', showed surveillance of Hariri on at least 15 days
before he was killed. The last 33 calls made from the phones were mostly
in areas where Hariri was in the two hours leading up to his death.
case against the accused is built in large part on circumstantial
evidence," the indictment said, but it added that circumstantial
evidence "...is often more reliable than direct evidence, which can
suffer from first-hand memory loss or eye-witness distortion."
reports last year predicted the indictment would be based on phone
records and Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has cast doubt on
any case relying on telephone calls, saying Israel had successfully
penetrated Lebanon's telecoms network and could falsify data to
implicate his group.
Nasrallah has dismissed the indictments as a
failed attempt to sow strife and bring down Lebanon's new
Hezbollah-backed government, and has said the authorities would never
arrest members of the group.