U.N. prosecutor says Hezbollah should help Hariri probe


Reuters
Date: 7/4/2011

By Greg Roumeliotis | Reuters – Mon, Jul 4, 2011

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The prosecutor at the U.N.–backed tribunal in The Hague seeking the killers of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik al–Hariri asked Hezbollah's leader on Monday to assist his investigation.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech on Saturday, his first response to the U.N. tribunal's issued indictments, dismissing them as a failed attempt to sow strife and bring down Lebanon's new Hezbollah–backed government.

During his speech, Nasrallah showed documents and videos aimed at portraying the investigation into Hariri's killing as both corrupt and biased against Hezbollah.

"The prosecutor welcomes Mr Nasrallah's offer to provide the file that he stated he has on some elements of the investigation and requests the video material that was shown on television during his televised statement," Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Daniel Bellemare said in a statement.

The prosecutor also asked for any other information and documents that would assist the tribunal. His spokesman could not immediately be reached to comment on the exact material in Nasrallah's speech that his office was interested in.

Footage aired by Nasrallah on Saturday included scenes of a conference in Israel at which the U.N. Lebanon tribunal's president Antonio Cassese was praised as a friend of Israel.

Nasrallah also showed pictures of documents which he said showed that 97 computers used by investigators had been shipped out of Lebanon via Israel, instead of directly from Beirut's airport or seaport, to the tribunal's headquarters in the Netherlands.

DEBATE IN THE MEDIA

The prosecutor said in his statement he would not engage in a public debate in the media about the credibility of his investigation. But he defended his team against Nasrallah's accusations of bias.

He pointed to his request in April 2009 to release four generals detained in Lebanon in connection with the Hariri case as evidence of his impartiality and willingness to be guided by credible and reliable evidence.

"The staff of the office of the prosecutor have been recruited on the basis of their professionalism, impartiality and expertise, and I have full confidence in their strong commitment to finding the truth," the prosecutor said.

The confirmation of the indictments in the case by a pre–trial judge showed that the prosecutor's investigation relies on credible evidence, the prosecutor said, calling for all steps to be taken to bring the accused to justice.

The tribunal has not named the suspects but Lebanese officials have said they include Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah member and brother–in–law of slain Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyeh, and three other members of the group.

Hezbollah, both a Shi'ite Muslim political movement and guerrilla army, denies any role in the huge explosion on the Beirut seafront which killed Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who served several terms as prime minister, and 22 others in February 2005.

The killing plunged Lebanon into a series of political crises and assassinations that led to clashes in May 2008, and there were fears that the indictments could revive sectarian tension in a country still scarred by its 1975–90 civil war.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Michael Roddy)


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