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Lebanese worry Hariri trial will destabilize the country

With Lebanon's sectarian tensions on the rise, some wonder whether the trial of the former prime minister's alleged killers will only make things worse.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — This week, four Lebanese men stand trail in absentia at The Hague for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The fugitive defendants are allegedly members of the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah. The Shia group has denied any involvement in the bombing that targeted Hariri's motorcade nine years ago, killing 22 and wounding more than 200.

Hariri's death caused political upheaval in Lebanon. Early suspicions of involvement by the Syrian regime, a staunch Hezbollah ally, led to mass street demonstrations in 2005 that put an end to Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

Close to a decade later, Lebanon remains unstable, with sporadic fighting between Sunni and Shia militants and an increasing number of targeted car bombings in both Sunni and Shia areas. Lebanese are divided as to whether the trial will be good for the country. Many worry it will simply heighten tensions. 

GlobalPost asked four Beirut residents what they think.

 

Khouloud Sukkarieh
Civil rights activist

“I think the trial will increase the gap between parties if it is not true and fully just because this event has divided Lebanese people harshly and it will continue to do so. The reaction to the verdict could be violence."

 

Elie Sokhen
Mobile phone salesman

"I think the trial is good for Lebanon because it means we can finally find the truth. It's a serial killing; it's not just one murder. It started with Hariri, or maybe even before this in the 1980's, so it is good for us to know the truth behind who is killing us, who is killing this series of leaders. It is a relief for us. Let's hope we can get to those who did it."

 

Farag (Last name withheld)
Retired police officer

"This killing was not committed by Hezbollah. Absolutely not! Hariri was loved by all Shia. He did many good things for Lebanon. He built schools and developed infrastructure and united the Lebanese people. Because of this the Shia began to love him, but Israel began to see him as an enemy.

"If you want to make a problem in Lebanon, you take a man that everyone loves and kill him. This is the work of Israel!"

 

Rami Khouri
Director, Issam Fares Institute, American University of Beirut

"The Hariri trial will not cause any significant change in the situation in Lebanon today as this case has already been ongoing for many years. But it will have a polarising effect on the issues surrounding the case. It will no doubt intensify an already existing dispute."

Photographs by Tracey Shelton/GlobalPost.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/lebanon/140120/lebanese-react-hariri-trial-hezbollah