Lebanon tribunal sentences two men to life imprisonment for Hariri bombing

The men remain at large and have been tried and convicted in absentia by the UN-backed, the Hague-based Lebanon tribunal.

A statue of Lebanon's assassinated former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri is seen near the site of the suicide bombing that killed him in 2005, during the 16th anniversary of his assassination, in Beirut, Lebanon February 14, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER)
A statue of Lebanon's assassinated former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri is seen near the site of the suicide bombing that killed him in 2005, during the 16th anniversary of his assassination, in Beirut, Lebanon February 14, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER)

International appeals judges on Thursday sentenced two men in absentia to life imprisonment for their role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The men remain at large despite being tried and convicted in absentia by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague.

"The attack terrorized not only the direct victims but more generally the people of Lebanon," presiding judge Ivana Hrdlickova said as she handed down the maximum sentence on Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi.

Hariri served as prime minister of Lebanon five times following the 1975-90 civil war. He and 21 others died in a massive truck bomb on Feb. 14, 2005.

Acquittal reversed

In March this year, the appeals chamber reversed an earlier acquittal and found Merhi and Oneissi guilty of terrorism and murder.

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and Bahiya al-Hariri, the sister of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, pray at his grave, during the 16th anniversary of his assassination, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, February 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER/FILE PHOTO)Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and Bahiya al-Hariri, the sister of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, pray at his grave, during the 16th anniversary of his assassination, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, February 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER/FILE PHOTO)

In 2020, a lower trial chamber convicted a former member of the Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, Salim Jamil Ayyash, for the bombing that killed veteran Sunni Muslim politician Hariri and 21 others. Ayyash also received a life sentence in the trial which saw a prosecution case based almost entirely on mobile phone records.

The Lebanon tribunal was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution. It is funded by voluntary contributions and by the Lebanese government.

Thursday's ruling concludes the court's main case.

It is expected that the court, which has been plagued by a funding crisis in the past years, will close down with only minimal staffing to handle residual issues.