Mehlis report blasts Syria

Syria accused of burning intelligence papers; urged to detain senior officers.

mehlis 298.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
mehlis 298.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Hours after the assassination of prominent anti-Syrian activist in Beirut on Monday, details from a report submitted by UN investigator Detlev Mehlis reached the press, indicating that the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were likely involved in the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The 25-page report from the German prosecutor and his team again accused Syria of trying to obstruct his probe when it demanded that they revise their findings after a crucial witness recanted his testimony. "This was, at the least, an attempt to hinder the investigation internally and procedurally," commented Mehlis. Syria denies involvement in the Hariri blast and has also waged a campaign to discredit the commission, citing a Syrian witness, Husam Taher Husam, who recanted his testimony to the commission and said he had been bribed to frame Syria. Mehlis said that recantation hadn't affected his findings. In fact, he said, "the investigation has continued to develop multiple lines of inquiry which, if anything, reinforce this conclusion." According to Channel 2, the report urges Syria to detain its senior officers, suspected of involvement in the assassination. Among those Mehlis wants to interrogate, according to the report, is Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara. The report names 19 Syrian and Lebanese officials who are suspected of involvement in the hit. In addition, the report accuses Syria of burning intelligence documents pertaining to the assassination and methodically intimidating witnesses. Mehlis also claims that there are new witnesses who had followed Hariri prior to his assassination. The latest claim of obstruction would be important because after Mehlis delivered his earlier report, the council had warned Syria that it would face further action - possibly including sanctions - if it didn't cooperate fully. Last week, members of the Mehlis commission questioned several senior Syrian officials at the UN headquarters in Vienna. UN diplomats there said Rustum Ghazale, the last Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon who was in charge when Hariri was assassinated, was among the officials questioned. Mehlis will brief the council on Tuesday. He has said he then wants to step down and return to his job as a leading prosecutor in Berlin. Lebanon has asked the Security Council to extend Mehlis' commission for six months after its mandate expires on Thursday. The Security Council, whose approval would be required, is likely to agree to extend it until June 15.