This is the fourth in a series of articles leading up to the start of trial at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the court prosecuting those responsible for the Feb. 14, 2005, attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The series will explore the tribunal’s creation, unsolved political assassinations and the views of victims in the run-up to trial.
KOURA, Lebanon: Inside Wissam al-Hasan’s family home in this suburb of Tripoli are two large, taxidermy lions.The majestic beasts are frozen in time, their jaws wide open, teeth bared, in stasis. On the wall behind the lions hangs a picture of the assassinated general who hunted them in Africa with former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hasan appears imposing, his military salute unperturbed.
But the general’s father, Adnan, sounds heartbroken and frail, his black winter hat shielding him from the cold. There has been no apparent progress in his son’s case.
“Until now it is in the hands of the officers,” he said. “What they did, what they found out, they don’t call me or tell me anything. Perhaps it is still confidential.”
The former Lebanese intelligence chief was killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut’s Ashrafieh neighborhood in October 2012, the first assassination of a Lebanese figure since the Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh’s killing in Damascus in 2008.
But his son’s case languishes in obscurity more than a year after the bombing and just a week before trial of the Hariri case begins.
When he turned on the TV the day of the attack, Adnan had no inkling that his son was the target.
“We were like everyone else, wondering what was in Ashrafieh? It didn’t occur to us, and we didn’t know where he was,” he said.
By 4:30 p.m. they began hearing that a senior officer was the target. And then they identified him as Wissam al-Hasan.
“We found out from the television,” he said.
But the family had been worried since 2005, the year Hariri, Hasan’s boss, was killed in Downtown Beirut.
His father accused the four pro-Syrian generals who were arrested in the wake of Hariri’s killing of incitement against his son.
“Shouldn’t the judiciary act when there are threats? We are not ignorant. The judiciary should act,” he said, his voice faltering.
The inaction further underscores his lack of faith that his son’s case will ever be solved.
“In Lebanon, I don’t have hope,” he said. “We might die before we know who carried out the operation.”
Still, he said, “of course I hope.”
“Of course I hope that the criminal is found and receives his punishment.”
Adnan said he was told by President Michel Sleiman that he had proposed referring Hasan’s assassination to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is prosecuting the Feb. 14, 2005, bombing that claimed Hariri’s life, but that the option had been rejected by the Cabinet.
He said the investigations had not even been referred to the judicial council. When asked if he was aware of any progress, he dismissed the possibility.
“In Lebanon there is an investigation?” he said.
“Do I have hope in the Lebanese judiciary? No, I have no hope,” he added. “Where is the free judiciary to rule? Where is the political cover for it to act freely?”
He said that he hoped his son’s case would be handled by the STL, but did not expect it to happen.
As trial in the Hariri assassination draws near, Adnan said the proceedings would prove whether the court has credibility or not.
But he said that resurgent accusations against his son of involvement in the Hariri attack were baseless, an attempt to mislead the investigation ahead of the trial.
In an interview by Al-Jadeed TV, Bo Astrom, a former investigator at the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission, said he was not convinced of the alibi presented by Hasan, who was Hariri’s chief of protocol and was not in the convoy on the day he was killed.
“They started again to say Wissam al-Hasan’s name,” his father Adnan said. “Wissam al-Hasan was exonerated. Even [UNIIIC Commissioner] Mehlis told them that Wissam al-Hasan was never a suspect.”
The intention, Adnan said, is to create doubts among the families and the people following the trial.
As to the perpetrators of his son’s assassination, he said he could only speculate as to who would benefit from his son’s death. But, he said, he has no power to bring justice.
He said he wanted to know the truth and not seek revenge.
“Our village here is all Hasan; we are 1,200 people here and abroad,” he said. “Nobody has criminal intent, or wants revenge. At a minimum, there is law that takes its course.”
But Adnan al-Hasan struggles to see a silver lining in his predicament and that of Lebanon.
“Hope? It’s difficult,” he said. “It’s difficult in the circumstances we’re in and this poor country.”