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STL prosecution disavows allegations against Hasan
Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan smiles in this Tuesday, July 31, 2007. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan smiles in this Tuesday, July 31, 2007. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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BEIRUT: The prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon disavowed Friday allegations against former ISF Information Branch chief Wissam al Hasan that he was involved in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In a statement on the STL's Twitter account, the prosecutor said that Bo Astrom, a former investigator who said Hasan's absence from Hariri's convoy on the day he was assassinated was suspicious, had never worked for the STL, and that his views do not represent those of the office of the prosecutor.

"The Office of the Prosecutor would like to emphasize that Mr. Bo Astrom has never worked for the Office of the Prosecutor at the STL," the court said on its Twitter feed.

“The personal views expressed recently by Mr. Astrom do not reflect or represent the position of the Prosecutor," the statement added.

Though it was not stated explicitly, the statement confirms that the prosecution does not consider Hasan, who was assassinated in October last year, as a suspect.

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 STL.

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.

The STL is tasked with bringing to justice those involved in the Feb. 14, 2005, attack in Beirut that killed Hariri and 22 others. Trial is scheduled to begin in January.

The court has so far indicted five Hezbollah members of involvement in the killing. Four of the suspects were accused in 2011 while the fifth suspect was indicted on Oct. 21.

Meanwhile, STL President Judge David Baragwanath issued a letter once again to the fifth suspect in Hariri’s killing, Hassan Merhi, asking him to appoint a lawyer and appear in court to face the charges against him.

“Seven weeks ago, on 21 October 2013, I invited you to consider whether you are prepared to face the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to answer the charges in the indictment,” Baragwanath said, referring to a previous letter he had issued to Merhi.

“These are very serious charges, including acts of terrorism and murder. I urge you to get legal advice and appoint a lawyer to represent you before the Tribunal,” the STL head added.

He also noted that Merhi has the right to participate in hearings by video-conference as an alternative to appearing in person in the Netherlands.

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