Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Tuesday called on Hezbollah to turn in the man held responsible for his father’s 2005 assassination, Rafik, shortly after a UN-backed tribunal said a commander from the Iran-backed group was responsible for the slaying.
“The [Special Tribunal for Lebanon] proved that one of Hezbollah’s commanders carried out the operation,” Hariri told Al Arabiya in an interview.
Hariri said that from the time his father was killed, “we wanted justice, and we call on this, Ayyash, to be turned in to the international tribunal.”
Salim Jamil Ayyash, the convicted lead defendant, was charged 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.
The tribunal found Tuesday that there was enough evidence to convict Ayyash in absentia of the all the charges against him.
“Hezbollah needs to know that it [is responsible] for this crime. And the accused should be turned in,” Hariri told Al Arabiya.
Some Lebanese, including victims waiting 15 years for justice, voiced disbelief at the verdict that acquitted three other Hezbollah members and found no evidence of the involvement of the leadership of Hezbollah or the Syrian government.
“I am shocked. Instead of the network (of culprits) expanding, it is now one superman who has done all of that?” said Sanaa al-Sheikh, who was wounded in the February 14, 2005 bomb blast on Beirut’s waterfront that killed Hariri. She added that she had never expected an outcome like this.
“They should pay us back the money they got,” said Mahmoud, speaking from a mainly Sunni Muslim district of Beirut loyal to Hariri, referring to the roughly $1 billion cost of the trial.
There was only silence from Hezbollah, which denies any involvement in the bomb attack. Fireworks were briefly heard in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s Shia Muslim southern suburbs.
In central Beirut, Hariri family members and loyalists stood at his grave waiting for his son, Saad, also a former premier, to speak from outside the tribunal in The Hague.