Official: Trial date of Hariri bomb suspects to be set in ‘near future’

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The trial date of the four suspects in the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Harri will soon be set, the Acting Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) told Al Arabiya in his first TV sit-down.

Daryl Mundis said that the pre-trial stage was complete as the last batch of information was provided to the U.N.-backed court by the deadline.

“The 17 June deadline that you refer to for the prosecution to meet its disclosure was met, the prosecution has complied with that so we are hopeful that the pre-trial judge will be setting a new trial date in the very near future,” he said.

The trial was expected to start on March 25 but was postponed due to delay in the disclosure of evidence as well as the Lebanese government not being able to arrest the four suspects.

On July 2011, the U.N.-backed tribunal released the names of the four indicted people. All of the four suspects had links to the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement, Hezbollah.

However, Hezbollah has denied any role in the killing and accused the court of being a tool of U.S. and Israeli policy seeking to discredit the group.

Mundis said challenges can be handled as long as “we continue to have the political and public support of not only the Lebanese people but people throughout the region and in fact the greater international community.”

Since the suspects were not arrested, they will be tried in absentia.

“Trial in absentia is not our first choice, it is an issue of last resort, it’s important for several reasons that the trial be conducted under these circumstances and in the absence of the accused,” Mundis told Al Arabiya.

He said trial in absentia will give “the victims to have some degree of closure with respect to what happened. It allows us to find out what the truth is, second it allows the victims and other witnesses to tell their story, third it allows us to avoid the situation where the individual accused makes a decision not to show up and that thwarts the entire judicial process.”

“Quite frankly we cannot be held hostage to the accused who through their own actions are seeking to avoid justice and having a day in court,” Mundis said. “[There are about] 65 participating victims, [who are] all individuals who applied and came forward because they wanted to participate in the proceedings, so in effect none of the victims who are participating are doing so against their will.”

The attack took place on 14 February 2005, killing 23 people and injuring scores more.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government has to pay a share of the STL’s budget, which is 49 percent.

“Lebanon has met every obligation that they have under the statute and the rules of procedure and evidence, including the funding issue, including the appointment of judges, including numerous requests for assistance. We are confident that Lebanon will continue to meet its obligations.”

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