01/16/2014, 00.00
LEBANON - SYRIA
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Rafik Hariri murder trial opens in The Hague

The UN International Tribunal began in 2006. The four accused are absent. Hariri's death has generated new hope for Lebanon, but has increased tension with Hezbollah, the major suspect in the murder. Nasrallah accuses U.S. and Israel . The trial opens on the eve of the peace conference on Syria .

The Hague ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Today the international trial against four people accused of murdering Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 begins in the Dutch capital. The four will be tried in absentia, having long since disappeared.

Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005 by a massive bomb placed on the road he was travelling along in his car. 22 other people perished with him.

Hariri, a Sunni, very close to Saudi Arabia, had sewn the reconciliation among the Lebanese factions, leading to the Taif Agreement (1989) and the country's reconstruction after the civil war. His death sparked a series of anti-Syrian demonstrations - Damascus was suspected of being behind the killing - so much so that 30 thousand troops of the Syrian army in Lebanon since 1976 , were expelled.

The Hariri assassination sparked a political re-awakening in Lebanon and the fight against terrorism, in an alliance between Sunnis and Christians. In 2006, the UN launched a Special Tribunal for Lebanon to investigate the murder, much hampered by Syria.

In 2011 Mustafa Badreddine , 52; Salim Ayyash, 50, Hussein Oneissi, 39 and Assad Sabra, 37 were charged with is murder. All of them, and especially Badreddine have had links with Hezbollah. The evidence of their crime is based largely on analysis of telephone conversations held among them.

Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has always denied any involvement by his organization and has accused the tribunal of being manipulated by an Israeli- American conspiracy . According to Nasrallah, Israel followed Hariri's movements via satellite and penetrated the telephone network to falsify data and blame the Shia Hezbollah .

The trial, which began today, involves the deposition of up to 500 witnesses and could take years. Among the accused a fifth person has been added 48 year old Habib Hassan Merhi.

After a lengthy and slow preparation, the trial opens at a very delicate moment for Lebanon and Syria. The Land of the Cedars has been unable to create a government for over a year because of the resistance of Hezbollah and its allies. While Syria awaits the start of the peace conference , after almost three years of civil and regional war, attended by - as supporters of Bashar Assad - even Hezbollah .

In recent weeks, in Lebanon there have been several attacks and car bombs: against a former minister , a friend of Hariri and against diverse Hezbollah locations.

 

 

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