There is no evidence that Hezbollah’s leadership or the Syrian government were involved in the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon found on Tuesday.
The UN-backed tribunal in Leidschendam on the outskirts of The Hague is also delivering its verdict in the trial of four Hezbollah members charged with conspiracy to kill Hariri and 21 others.
“The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri and his political allies, however there is no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement,” said Judge David Re, reading a summary of the court’s 2,600-page decision.
However, the court said there was enough evidence to link two Hezbollah members to mobile phones allegedly involved in Hariri’s killing.
The verdicts were delayed by nearly two weeks as a mark of respect for victims of another devastating explosion — the massive Beirut port blast that killed around 180 people and injured thousands more on August 4, plunging a nation already reeling from economic and social malaise even deeper into crisis.
The court ruling threatens to compound tensions in the tiny country. Hariri was Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni politician at the time of his February 14, 2005, assassination. Iran-backed Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim group.