BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has indicted Hassan Habib Merhi, a Hezbollah member, as the fifth suspect in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Four Hezbollah members were indicted in 2011 for involvement in the Beirut attack which also killed 22 other people.
The U.N.-backed court said in a statement Thursday that an indictment and arrest warrant for Merhi were issued to the Lebanese authorities in August and that his case will be separate from the trial of the four others, which is due to commence in absentia in January.
The court had given Lebanese authorities 30 days to arrest Merhi, but the prosecutor general reported back in early September saying the efforts have failed.
As a result, the STL President ordered a public advertisement to aid with locating the accused.
Merhi is said to have been initially sought by the STL as a witness, but the court could not gain access to him given the failure of Lebanese authorities to arrest him.
The STL has repeatedly pointed out Lebanon's failure to apprehend the four previously indicted members of the resistance group. Hezbollah has denied any role in Hariri's murder.
Hezbollah's chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has decribed the court as a U.S.-Israeli tool aimed at targeting his group and inciting strife in the country. Nasrallah has also said that the four suspects will never be apprehended.
Local media outlet Al-Jadeed earlier this week named the fifth suspect and described Merhi as a member of Hezbollah who fought in the 2006 war against Israel.
Al-Jadeed also said Merhi resides in Beirut's southern suburbs but is originally from Zqaq al-Blat.
According to the indictment, Merhi, 48, is accused of coordinating the preparation of a false claim of responsibility as part of the preparations for the 2005 attack.
He is also charged with several other crimes including conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act.
No image of Merhi was released in tandem with the STL’s announcement.
The court also decided Thursday to lift the confidentiality order on the indictment against Merhi, issusing a publically redacted version of the document. The text of the indictment carries tantalizing hints at the efforts to arrest Merhi.
In the statement, the prosecutor said the security situation in Lebanon has hindered efforts to arrest Merhi.
STL President David Baragwanath urged Lebanese authorities in a document explaining the decision to unveil the indictment to exert more efforts to arrest all five suspects.
"I respectfully suggest that it may be time for the Lebanese authorities to reinvigorate and intensify their efforts to apprehend all five accused," Baragwanath said.
"As soon as circumstances permit, the Lebanese authorities should continue to search for the five accused by inspecting possible places of residence, interviewing witnesses, and seeking records of their movements and transactions."