Al Arabiya exclusively showed on Friday the picture of Mustafa Badr al-Din, one of the four Hezbollah members charged over the 2005 killing of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri.
The Lebanese media said Mr. Badr al-Din is the brother in law of the high Hezbollah official, Imad Mughaniyeh, who was long-associated with the Beirut barracks and US embassy bombings on which both took place in 1983. Mr. Mughaniyeh was killed in 2008 in a car bomb.
Mr. Badr al-Din, aged around 50, is also a member of the Shura council for Hezbollah, and he was detained in Kuwait in 1983 alongside 17 suspects over bombing of the US embassy in the Gulf country. He later escaped to Lebanon in 1990.
The second suspect is Salem Ayash is said to be the head of the cell that executed the assassination of the Lebanese late premiere. Mr. Ayash, another Hezbollah member is a naturalized American and volunteered in Lebanon’s civil defense.
The other two Hezbollah suspects are Asad Hassan Sabra and Hussain Hassan.
Lebanon’s interior minister Marwan Sharbal said that the names of the four suspects are the same names found in the official memo calling for the fours’ arrest warrants and that all belong to Hezbollah.
Mr. Sharbal said that the country’s public persecution has received early Friday orders to detain the four Hezbollah members.
To stave off any allegations that the international tribunal targeting Hezbollah members has been politicized or working with one Lebanese faction over another, the minister cited the Lebanese government’s as being the only receiver of such news, and asked, “How can such decision be a secret when such names have reached the media before it has reached us?”
Lebanese Prosecutor General Saad Mirza issued a statement in which he confirmed the indictments and said that his office would study the necessary steps that should be taken. According to legal experts, Lebanon has 30 days to serve out the arrest warrants. If the suspects are not arrested within this period, the United Nations-backed tribunal would then make the indictments public and summon the suspects to appear before court.
UN Secretary General Ban’s office said in a statement: “Secretary General reiterates his strong support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and for its efforts to uncover the truth and send a message that impunity will not be tolerated. He calls on all states to support the independent judicial process, in particular by cooperating with the Special Tribunal in the execution of the indictment and arrest warrants. The Secretary General expects the new Government of Lebanon to uphold all of Lebanon’s international obligations and to cooperate with the Special Tribunal.”
Hezbollah, which has long acknowledged that its members would be named in the eventual indictments, has denounced the court, calling it politicized and a tool of the United States and Israel. It wants Lebanon to end its cooperation with it, including withdrawing Lebanese judges and stopping funding for it.
Lebanese politicians not affiliated with Hezbollah had long suspected that the murders had been carried out by Hezbollah members acting on the orders of their patrons, Iran and Syria. As prime minister, Rafik Hariri – who was close to Saudi Arabia – rarely got along with Syria, and especially its president, Bashar Al Assad.
Mr. Hariri, who built his personal fortune in the construction industry by doing business in Saudi Arabia, was widely credited with rebuilding Lebanon – and especially its capital city of Beirut – in the aftermath of the country’s 15-year civil war. That war ended in 1990 through robust mediation by Saudi Arabia. Various warring factions signed the Taif Accords, under which they agreed to cease hostilities and to adhere to Lebanon’s confessional political traditions.
Those traditions call for the presidency to be held by a Christian Maronite; the prime ministership by a Sunni Muslim; and the speakership of parliament by a Shia Muslim. The social and political contracts have held so far, but the Hezbollah are a Shia organization and the worry is that their increasingly influential sectarian politics might override Lebanon’s social and political traditions.
The arrest warrants disclosed by Saad Hariri’s office on Thursday for the murder suspects were issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), an international body established by the UN for the prosecution under Lebanese law of those responsible for the assassination of Mr. Hariri. The initial reaction of political observers was that Syria and Iran were the “unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators.”
Because of Hezbollah’s close ties to Iran and Syria – countries that the United States accuses of state-sponsored terrorism – the arrest warrants are certain to generate fresh political turbulence in the region. There is already significant tension between US-backed Israel and Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime has faced mounting protests by pro-democracy demonstrators. The Assad government has hit back by killing unarmed protestors.
Officials say that Lebanon now has 30 days to serve out the arrest warrants. If the suspects are not arrested within that period, the STL will then make public the indictment and summon the suspects to appear before a court, AFP reported.
Serving the arrest warrants may be particularly problematic for the Lebanese government because it is controlled by Hezbollah. The United Nations does not have an enforcement mechanism – at least, not one that might be especially effective in the politically contentious arena of Lebanese sectarian politics.
(Dina Al-Shibeeb, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: email@example.com)