02/24/2009, 00.00
LEBANON
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International tribunal into Hariri case takes its first steps

The head of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission leaves Lebanon for The Hague. Questions are raised about how the tribunal will deal with detainees, including four generals.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Daniel Bellemare, head of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission into the assassination of former Prime minister Rafik Hariri, left Lebanon for The Hague (Netherlands) where the Special Tribunal will take its first public step in the trial of those who are held responsible for the 14 February 2005 attack (pictured). In fact he will take part in a press conference that will lay out the details of the 1 March trial launch. The first issue the Special Tribunal has to deal with will be the prisoners. Currently four generals are in jail, plus others accused of participating in the conspiracy or making false statements.

According to the prisoners’ attorneys, their detention is illegal, but the question of greatest concern is what will happen after they are moved, a necessary step for the trial.

Some press reports indicate that Dutch authorities are not willing to hold them in Dutch prisons or allow them to take up residence in the country should the Special Tribunal require that for their release.

The issue has had political repercussions in Lebanon as well, especially in view of the upcoming elections.

Whether the Special Tribunal decides to release or them or not could be construed as acknowledging or not a Syrian role in the attack with foreseeable consequences for pro-Syrian parties and candidates.

Last night Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar sent a letter to the tribunal confirming that the Lebanese cabinet intends to cooperate with it.

UN sources also said that the tribunal “will not deal with domestic Lebanese political issues.”

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