Lebanon, start legal proceedings against alleged Hariri's killers
Beirut (AsiaNews) - Lebanese prosecutors Thursday started formal legal proceedings against four pro-Syrian security chiefs over the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, in the biggest step yet towards bringing the suspects to trial.
The four detainees are: presidential guard head Mustafa Hamdan; former general security chief Jamil al-Sayed; ex internal security head Ali al-Hage, and former army intelligence director Raymond Azar, were arrested earlier this week.
Prosecutor general Said Mirza that the step had been taking conforming with an initial complaint made in the aftermath of Hariri's murder against any person who was "implicated, actively participated or incited the assassination." Investigating magistrate Elias Eid is to interrogate them on Friday and then provide recommendations over what further course of action to take in the case.
The head of the UN's commission of enquiry into the February murder of Hariri, Detlev Mehlis, had earlier recommended that the Lebanese judicial authorities keep the four in detention for the "purposes of the enquiry and their own safety". "Mehlis welcomes the decison of the prosecutors to bring a complaint against the four officials suspected over the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which is what he had recommended before," said UN Beirut spokesman Najib Friji.
The UN envoy, speaking at a news conference, described the arrest of the four men as a "a very important step" but also cautioned that they were only "part of the picture" and the case was far from over. Mehlis also turned the spotlight back on Syria itself, which has faced criticism for its alleged cooperation in the murder, saying he was willing to travel there and was optimistic "problems" would be resolved. "There were some problems but I'm optimistic that these problems can be solved," he told a news conference. "They will have to be solved because without this cooperation we will not have a full picture."
Meanwhile, Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud Thursday vowed to stay on in office, dismissing vocal calls for his resignation after the arrest of four top aides over the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri. Druze leader and prominent Lahoud critic Walid Jumblatt had predicted on Tuesday that the president would have to step down, saying it was finally "payback time" over the murder and further arrests would be on the way.Since the Hariri attack, there have been 11 bomb blasts in Lebanon, and several anti-Syrians including a politician and a journalist have been killed.