BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri described Thursday the opening of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a historic day and the first step toward real justice, saying the refusal to hand over Hezbollah suspects accused of killing his father was yet another crime.
“Today is a historic day par excellence and Rafik Hariri's presence was strongly felt as well as all the martyrs who died with him and those who fell after him, including Mohammed Shatah and his body guard, and the hundreds of victims who died in the bombings and political assassinations,” Hariri said at The Hague outside the STL headquarters.
He also noted it was useless to try and hinder the path of justice, saying: “From now on, any attempt to try to disrupt this path will be in vain.”
The STL opened its first trial at The Hague in the presence of Hariri, Lebanese officials and some of the victims from the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination which killed former PM Rafik Hariri and 21 others in Downtown Beirut.
The U.N.-backed court indicted in 2011 four members of Hezbollah over involvement in the killing and accused last year a fifth member of the resistance group of complicity in the attack, which was followed by a series of political assassinations of Lebanese figures.
Referring to Hezbollah’s refusal to hand over the suspects, Hariri said: “Protecting the accused in the assassination of Rafik Hariri and his companions and insisting on not handing them to justice is another crime added to the main crime.”
“We were certainly appalled to have a Lebanese group accused in this crime, based on evidence and extensive investigations,” he added.
“We never thought that there would be, in the ranks of the Lebanese, people who could sell themselves to the devil, volunteer to kill Rafik Hariri and execute the most horrible terrorist operation with that enormous amount of explosives,” Hariri, who is currently living abroad for security reasons, said.
In response to a question by one of the reporters outside the STL, Hariri voiced regret that the perpetrators behind his father’s killing adhere to “a certain political party.”
“But they are innocent until proven guilty,” he added.
“Starting today, the eyes and the sentiments of the Lebanese people are drawn to the work of this tribunal which opened the first page of true justice and laid the required cornerstone to fight political assassinations and organized crime in Lebanon and the Arab world,” he said.