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Lebanon tribunal proposes new charge for Rafik Hariri suspects

Prosecutors at the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri want to add a new charge of "criminal association" against four men accused of carrying out the attack.

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A Muslim woman walks past a portrait of slain Lebanese former premier Rafik Hariri displayed near his gravesite in central Beirut on August 19, 2011. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Prosecutors at the UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri want to expand the charges against four men accused of carrying out the attack.

A document released Friday by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) said the expanded indictment being proposed adds a new count of “criminal association,” an offence under the Lebanese penal code, to existing charges that include homicide and terrorism, the Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors filed their request to add the additional charge confidentially last month. The proposal was reportedly disclosed because the pre-trial judge had requested that the STL’s appeal chamber define the crime of “criminal association.”

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Last June four members of the Shia Islamist group Hezbollah were charged over the murder of Hariri, a billionaire Sunni Muslim politician, and 21 others killed when a suicide bomber drove a van full of explosives directly in Hariri’s convoy as it travelled through Beirut on Valentine’s Day, 2005, according to the BBC.

Warrants for the four men’s arrests were issued, but Lebanon later told the court it had been unable to track any of them down.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has rejected “each and every void accusation,” saying the charges are politically motivated and vowing that the suspects will never be handed over to the tribunal. Last month the STL said it would proceed with a trial in absentia.

In another development Friday, Reuters news agency – citing an unnamed Lebanese security source – reported that the STL’s prosecutor had added a fifth Hezbollah member to the list of suspects, and that a sixth individual, also from Hezbollah, might be added too.

Last week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extended the tribunal’s mandate for a further three years, and reiterated his organization’s commitment to uncovering the truth behind Hariri’s killing. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/lebanon/120302/lebanon-tribunal-proposes-new-charge-rafik-hariri