08/19/2020, 10.57
LEBANON
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Reactions to The Hague Hariri judgment

by Pierre Balanian

Many judge the sentence - which does not condemn Hezbollah and the Syrian government - ridiculous; for others it is the result of a political agreement. The village of Haruf, homeland of Salim Ayash, one of the condemned, celebrates him as a "son of the resistance". Tripoli's Sunnis remain calm. Saad Hariri accepts "what emerged from the Court, though it falls short of expectations".

Beirut (AsiaNews) – After 15 years The Hague International Court has issued a final ruling on the Hariri murder which has sparked reactions from leading figures and ordinary citizens alike. For Ramez, a taxi driver from Beirut, "the investigation wasted a lot of money. If it had been conducted by the gendarmerie barracks in Uzaii [an infamous neighborhood of Beirut - ed.] it would have been faster, clearer and would have cost less than a thousand Lebanese pounds!”.

Aida Akiki, a housewife from Mount Lebanon comments with a bitter smile: "They made us fear we would die in the civil war that the sentence would cause, and instead we are dying with laughter".

A more composed comment, the first after the sentence, comes from the son of the assassinated Premier Rafiq Hariri, former Prime Minister Saad. In a press conference from The Hague, he stated that he "accepted the findings of the Court, even if it did not live up to expectations". He recalled that the killing of his father Rafiq was a political assassination and "whoever committed this assassination wanted to change the face that characterizes Lebanon".

Repeating the words of the Court, Saad linked the decision to eliminate Rafiq Hariri, with the meeting that took place at the Hotel Bristol in Beirut between the victim, then Prime Minister of Lebanon, and a Syrian delegation which he told the Syrian military presence in Lebanon had to end. With this sentence, "the phase of the political exploitation of the assassination ends," Saad said, and he invited Hezbollah to "collaborate". In an interview with Al Hadith TV, Saad Hariri then said: "Hezbollah know they are responsible for the murder. I ask them to hand over Salim Ayash convicted in absentia."

A second noteworthy comment is that of the victim's other son, Bahaa Hariri, a political rival of his brother Saad. From Beirut he declared: “The court was clear: Salim Ayash is part of the Hezbollah; for us the important thing is that it was a political assassination ". He then added that he did not intend to become Prime Minister, but that he wanted to "serve my country".

Bahaa then declared that he is close to the demonstrators who accuse "the political system and the war lords" responsible for "the collapse of Lebanon". The Lebanese people, he said, must be firm in "getting rid of them and returning the country to Arab and international credibility". "I am in direct contact with Patriarch Rai - he added - and I support his position" on the neutrality of Lebanon.

In a live broadcast, Nazik Hariri, the victim's widow, said she considered the court's decision a "historic sentence". It does not restore what is lost, but "restores to Lebanon the logic of responsibility and justice that has long been held captive".

In a sarcastic way, TV presenter Ramez Al Kadi asked himself: "After 15 years, was it Salim Ayash who killed Rafiq Hariri?" And he added: "We spent a billion dollars to find out if Ayash had phoned or not!" He was referring to wiretapping among those responsible for the attack, and to a popular song by Ziad Rahbani entitled "Ayash phoned".

 

Hisham Hadad a Lebanese comedian commented: "It seems we want to close the post-assassination phase of Hariri both locally and internationally, to devote ourselves completely to the post-explosion phase of the port, which seems much more dangerous".

Druze deputy Wiam Wahab: “The mountain gave birth to a mouse. Lebanon has spent a billion dollars listening to an absurd political analysis. Give us back the money spent since the Court has not added anything to the conclusions made by the Lebanese bodies”.

In Haruf, the native village of Salim Ayash in southern Lebanon, a banner (see photo) has been displayed at the entrance to the village, with these words: "Haruf's sons are proud of their resistant son, the hajj Salim Ayash".

Yesterday on social media there were many calls for vendetta against Syrians and Shiites. But the city of Tripoli, a Sunni stronghold, semi-closed due to the increase in Covid 19 cases, has remained calm. For Huzeifa, a minibus driver who had to transport angry protesters from Tripoli to Beirut, the Hague ruling was a cold shower: "We just have to hope for divine justice," he said.

Also from Tripoli, the engineer Omar Kabbara, a member of the Future Current political party of Saad Hariri, commented: "I personally believe that the Syrian secret services  and Hezbollah participated [in the attack] with all their abilities. The final sentence could be the result of an international agreement to calm the waters and get Hezbollah out of direct involvement”.

For university professor Prof. Bilal Haffar, "whoever is saved today from human condemnation, will not escape divine punishment on judgment day".

 

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