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Tueni family sues Syrian officers implicated in MP’s murder

MPs Tueni and Harb hold a news conference at the An-Nahar newspaper offices. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: March 14 MP Butros Harb. the lawyer of the Tueni family, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against two Syrian officers named in a document implicating them in the 2005 assassination of MP Gebran Tueni. The telegram, allegedly from Syrian Army Intelligence, also links Hezbollah’s intelligence to the killing.

Addressing a news conference at the headquarters of An-Nahar, the newspaper where Tueni was editor-in-chief, Harb said he would ask the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to add Tueni’s case to the others in its jurisdiction.

“On behalf of Tueni’s family, we have presented a memorandum, including a personal lawsuit against Brig. Hasan Abdel-Rahman and Brig. Gen. Saqr Manoun, both officers in Syrian Army Intelligence, to question them about the reliability of what was mentioned in it [the document], including the [possibility that] members of Hezbollah’s intelligence helped carry out the assassination,” Harb said.

Last week, Al-Arabiya television broadcast what it said is a leaked Syrian telegram proving Hezbollah and Syria’s involvement in the Dec. 12, 2005 assassination of Tueni.

Dated Dec. 12, 2005, the telegram from Abdel-Rahman to then-Syrian Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat says, “with the help of members from Hezbollah intelligence, mission 213, which was given to us on Dec. 10, 2005, was accomplished and had excellent results.”

“We consider this document important ... it includes clear evidence of criminal activity related to the assassination of the martyr Gibran Tueni because it coincides with the assassination of ... Tueni, [and this is] the only important event that took place on Dec. 12, 2005,” Harb said.

Harb said he would not make unfounded accusations before the investigation is complete, voicing his trust in the Lebanese judiciary.

“We will not jump the gun until investigations are over and the identities of the perpetrators and who stand behind them are revealed, because we believe in Lebanon and its democratic system,” Harb said.

But the Batroun lawmaker said that the STL faces fewer impediments than Lebanon’s courts in bringing the men to justice. Hezbollah denied any involvement in Tueni’s assassination earlier in the week, saying that it is waiting for the judiciary’s verdict.

Commenting on Hezbollah’s response, Harb asked the party to present to the judiciary those Hezbollah officials indicted in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He also called on Hezbollah to hand over a suspect in a July attempt on his own life.

“How could the judiciary issue a ruling when it [Hezbollah] continues to obstruct the path of international and Lebanese justice?” Harb asked.

Harb has repeated that Hezbollah refuses to hand over one of its members suspected of involvement in a scheme to kill him.

In June 2011, The STL indicted four Hezbollah officials in Hariri’s assassination. The party refused to hand over its members, denying any involvement in the killing.

Tueni’s daughter, MP Nayla Tueni, said during the news conference that her father’s case should not be politicized, voicing her belief in the judicial system and the STL.

STL spokesperson Martin Youssef said that Tueni’s assassination could fall under the jurisdiction of the tribunal, but said there should be evidence connecting Tueni’s killing to the assassination of Hariri.

“Gebran Tueni’s assassination falls within the timeframe of cases that could fall under the jurisdiction of the tribunal. But this will depend on two things: the STL prosecutor submitting a connected case file to the pretrial judge and, secondly, the pretrial judge has to review and establish if there’s preliminary evidence of a connection between the Feb. 14, 2005, attack and Mr. Tueni’s assassination,” Youssef told The Daily Star.

Under the tribunal’s statute, crimes committed between Oct. 1, 2004, and Dec. 12, 2005, that are “similar in gravity and nature” to the attack that killed Hariri can also come under the court’s jurisdiction.

Separately, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future parliamentary bloc said after its weekly meeting that the content of Al-Arabiya document amounts to a tip, calling on the Cabinet, judiciary and STL to look into it and make public the results of their investigations. – With additional reporting by Willow Osgood.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 10, 2012, on page 3.

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