Prosecutor files amended indictment in Hariri probe

Findings of tribunal have been the subject of wide speculation in Lebanon.

Last Updated: May 07, 2011, 10:10 AM IST

The Hague: The prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon filed an amended indictment on Friday based on further evidence in the probe into the 2005 killing of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, the office of the prosecutor said.

The findings of the tribunal have been the subject of wide speculation in Lebanon and there was fear that an indictment of Hezbollah members could spark sectarian unrest.

"The Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel A Bellemare, today filed an amended indictment," his office said in a statement issued in The Hague.

The new amended indictment "replaces the indictment of 11 March 2011, to include substantive new elements unavailable until recently," it said.

The indictment, which is being kept confidential, has to be examined by Belgian judge Daniel Fransen, who has the responsibility of confirming it before arrest warrants or summonses are issued.

"It is anticipated that this will be completed in the coming months," the STL press office said.

The initial indictment was filed on January 17.

The tribunal was set up in The Hague in 2009 by the United Nations to try those alleged to have carried out the massive car bomb attack that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut.

"Whilst there is no fixed timeframe for the review of the indictment and the supporting material, the pre-trial judge is working to complete this process as quickly as possible following this amendment," the press office said in a statement.

"To ensure that the review is fair and just, the large volume of supporting material must be examined carefully and comprehensively," it added.

The prosecutor did not intend to make further amendments to the indictment unless ordered to do so by the judge.

"Other indictments could, however, be filed in the future if warranted by the evidence," Bellemare`s office added.

Hezbollah and its allies toppled the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri - the slain leader`s son - in January over his refusal to disavow the tribunal, which is widely expected to indict members of the powerful party for the 2005 assassination.

The Shi’ite party has bluntly warned that it would not stand by should any of its militants be accused of the murder.

Billionaire businessman Najib Mikati was appointed to succeed Hariri, with the blessing of Hezbollah, but he has yet to form a government because of bitter rivalry among political parties.

Hariri’s camp -- which has said it would not take part in the new government -- has sought guarantees from Mikati to see the UN-backed investigation through, but he has avoided making any firm commitments.

Bureau Report