Lebanon News

Hezbollah deny involvement in Harb assassination plot

Hezbollah supporters listen to chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaking on the six anniversary of the 2006 war against Israel, in Beirut's southern suburbs, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah denied Tuesday having any connection to the attempted assassination of Batroun MP Butros Harb, who responded by calling on the party to allow security forces to interrogate a Hezbollah member suspected of being involved in the failed plot.

Hezbollah said in a statement that Harb and many March 14 officials were making accusations against the party without any evidence.

Harb responded to the comments by calling on Hezbollah to help the judiciary carry out the investigation into the attempt on his life earlier this month and to allow the interrogation of one of its members.

On June 5, two detonators were found in an elevator in a building that houses Harb’s office in Badaro. The perpetrators fled the area when a resident of the building grew suspicious.

Police have not made any arrests in the case.

A security source close to the investigation told The Daily Star police have identified two suspects, but that neither has been brought in for questioning.

“Investigators believe that between five and seven people participated in the operation to assassinate Harb,” a judicial source said.

The security source said Hezbollah member Mahmoud Hayek is one of the suspects police wish to speak with.

Hayek was not available when police visited his home in south Lebanon town of Adsheet, the security source said.

“His wife asked the police to ask Hezbollah about contacting her husband,” the source added.

In the statement, Hezbollah urged March 14 members to stop making false political accusations against the party. “We fully deny that Hezbollah or any of its members has anything to do with the so-called assassination of MP Butros Harb,” the statement read.

Four Hezbollah members have been accused by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon of plotting the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Despite the formal release of the indictment by the STL and Interpol, Hezbollah has refused to hand over its members.

Harb, a leading figure in the March 14 coalition, is the second politician targeted by an assassination attempt this year after a sniper failed in an attempt to kill Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at his residence in Maarab.

“We call on Hezbollah to lift its cover from Mahmoud Hayek and place him under the jurisdiction of the judiciary,” a statement from Harb’s office said following the release of Hezbollah’s statement.

“This would remove all suspicion against the party and would help the investigation to uncover the identities of those who took part in the assassination attempt,” Harb’s statement added.

Harb also said that he had not accused Hezbollah of the attempt on his life. “It is unfortunate that Hezbollah’s statement includes mistakes and fabrications that Harb has accused the party when MP Harb just asked the party to cooperate with the judiciary and let one of his members be interrogated,” the statement added.

Since the attempt against Geagea in April, the opposition has accused the March 8-dominated government of providing cover for perpetrators. March 14 officials have repeatedly called on the government to provide security forces with telecommunications data needed for investigations into the assassination attempts.

Despite President Michel Sleiman’s demand that the government allow security services access to telecoms data, the controversy continues amid March 8 minister’s claim that such a measure would endanger civil liberties.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 25, 2012, on page 3.




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