by WorldTribune Staff, August 20, 2020
A UN-backed tribunal found a member of the Iran-backed Hizbullah terrorist organization guilty of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Tuesday found Salim Ayyash guilty of Hariri’s murder, but cleared three other suspects after a years-long trial.
Ayyash, 56, was convicted in absentia by the Netherlands-based court for a massive suicide bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri and 21 other people.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that “Ayyash’s conviction helps confirm what the world is increasingly recognizing — that Hizbullah 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.”
Related: Massacre unites Lebanon, reminds world of Syrian occupation, Feb. 18, 2005
Judges said there was not enough evidence to convict Assad Sabra, 43, Hussein Oneissi, 46, and Hassan Habib Merhi, 54, for the blast.
Other Hizbullah members who were accused by the Tribunal are still at large, as Lebanon has said it cannot locate them. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah has vowed never to turn them in. The terror group has dismissed the court as a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, said he accepted the verdict: “The court has ruled, and in the name of the family of the late prime minister Rafik Hariri and on behalf of the families of the martyrs and victims, we accept the court’s ruling. Today, we have all discovered the truth.”
Even though the court did not link Hizbullah’s leadership to the attack, Hariri said he still believed the Iran-backed organization was responsible.
“Today, the party that should make sacrifices is Hizbullah. It is clear that the network responsible is from its ranks,” said Hariri, adding that the perpetrators thought they could dodge justice and punishment because of Hizbullah’s protection.
“We will not rest until the punishment is carried out,” Hariri said. “The Lebanese, as of today, will not accept for their country to be a haven for murderers.”