International community welcomes ruling on Rafik Hariri killing at UN-backed tribunal

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The international community Tuesday welcomed the verdict into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, where a Hezbollah commander was found guilty.

“The United States welcomes the guilty verdict handed down by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) against Hezbollah operative Salim Ayyash,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

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Ayyash, the convicted lead defendant, was charged by a UN-backed international tribunal with committing a terrorist attack by means of an explosive device, intentional homicide of Hariri and the 21 other victims, and attempted intentional homicide of 226 additional people.

The judges noted that Ayyash had an affiliation with Hezbollah and that the accused were all supporters of the group, but the verdict also stopped short of directly pointing to responsibility by Hezbollah in the attack.

Three defendants were charged with being accomplices in these acts.

A fifth accused, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, a top Hezbollah commander, died in 2016 and was subsequently removed from the case.

“Hezbollah operatives do not freelance. Ayyash’s conviction helps confirm what the world is increasingly recognizing---that Hezbollah and its members are not defenders of Lebanon as they claim to be but constitute a terrorist organization dedicated to advancing Iran’s malign sectarian agenda,” Pompeo said.

Separately, a British official said that Tuesday’s verdict was a step towards justice. “Those who commit such atrocities must be held to account,” said Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office James Cleverly.

Saudi Arabia said the verdict was just the beginning of achieving justice.

The Saudi Arabian government called for the punishment of Hezbollah and its terrorist elements while “stressing on the need to protect Lebanon, the region and the world from the terrorist practices of this party, which is considered a tool of the Iranian regime.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry claimed that Hezbollah had taken the Lebanese people “hostage.”

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