BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri dismissed as “nonsense” Wednesday claims that late Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan was involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, saying such allegations would not derail the path of justice.
“If the aim of repeating the same nonsense yesterday is to plant doubts in the minds of the Lebanese, including the family of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, this is an occasion for us to reaffirm that we consider martyr Wissam al-Hasan as part of our family and as our martyr just as much as martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,” Hariri said in a statement.
“And his loyalty to Lebanon first, as well as his loyalty to martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, were proven beyond any doubt by his heroic path, including his leading role in helping the international investigation and the international tribunal ... and by his blood spilled by the same criminal hand that killed martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,” Hariri added.
Bo Astrom, a former investigator at the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission, said that Hasan’s unusual absence from Hariri’s convoy on the day of the assassination on Feb. 14, 2005, was suspicious. Astrom was a member of the UNIIIC under Detlev Mehlis, its first head. The body probed the assassination of Hariri prior to the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
In an interview by Al-Jadeed TV that was aired Tuesday, Astrom said it was the only occasion that Hasan did not join Hariri’s convoy.
Astrom said that Hasan told investigators he had to be absent because he had to take an examination at a university. But Astrom said he was not convinced by Hasan’s alibi.
Astrom added that Hasan told the person who replaced him in the convoy to take the ill-fated route.
A suicide bomber driving a truck struck Hariri’s motorcade near St. George Hotel shortly after the former prime minister left Parliament and was heading to his Qoreitem residence. Hasan, who was killed in a car bomb in October 2012 in Beirut, had been in charge of Hariri’s security. He later headed the Internal Security Forces Information Branch.
But Mehlis was quoted by local media outlets Wednesday as rejecting Astrom’s claims. He said that Hasan was never a suspect.
Hariri said the accusations against Hasan had previously been investigated by the UNIIIC after they were made during a similar program that relied on the same source and was broadcasted around three years ago by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
“The international committee concluded at the time, and for the second time, that Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan was not part of the convoy of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri for obvious, transparent and verified reasons,” Hariri said.
In November 2010, CBC aired a documentary alleging the involvement of Hezbollah and Hasan in Hariri’s assassination. It said Hasan’s alibi was “weak.”In the spring of 2009, an article published in German news magazine Der Spiegel accused Hezbollah of standing behind the assassination of Hariri. In the summer of 2011, the STL indicted four Hezbollah members in the case and a fifth earlier this year.
Hariri stressed that allegations aired by Al-Jadeed TV against Hasan would not be able to obstruct the STL path, which he said would soon uncover the truth about the assassination of his father.
“If the target is to launch a new hysterical chapter of the campaign against the international tribunal as the trials start next month, we say to those who stand behind this that the train has left the station, that throwing garbage on the rails will not stop it and that its meeting with justice, the truth, the Lebanese people and all those who love Rafik Hariri and Wissam al-Hasan, in the Arab region and the whole world, has become very close. We shall meet again in the next station, on Jan. 16, 2014,” Hariri said.
Astrom’s interview was aired the same day the STL announced the Trial Chamber had scheduled the trial into Hariri’s assassination to start Jan. 16, 2014.
In October, defense lawyers at the STL were fined for making “frivolous” appeals to the court’s judges.