A UN-backed tribunal convicted a Hezbollah member of conspiracy to kill former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in a 2005 bombing that set the stage for years of confrontation between Lebanon’s rival political forces today Tuesday.
There was insufficient evidence against three other men charged as accomplices in the bombing and they were acquitted, the tribunal found.
Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire, had close ties with the United States, Western and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, and was seen as a threat to Iranian and Syrian influence in Lebanon.
He led efforts to rebuild Beirut following the 1975-1990 civil war.
The tribunal concluded in finding Salim Jamil Ayyash who possessed “one of six mobiles used by the assassination team” guilty of committing a terrorist attack and the homicide of Hariri and 21 others.
Prosecutors also established that Ayyash had affiliations with Hezbollah, the tribunal found in its 2,600-page ruling.
The three other defendants are also alleged members of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group, but their role in the attack was not sufficiently established.
Hariri’s son Saad, who took his father’s mantle and has served as premier three times, attended the tribunal and said he accepted the verdict of the tribunal but vowed he would not rest until punishment is served.
Hariri said it was time for the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement to assume responsibility after the tribunal convicted one of its members of conspiracy to kill his father and also Lebanon’s former prime minister.
“Hezbollah is the one that should make sacrifices today,” he said. “I repeat: we will not rest until punishment is served.”