BEIRUT: Defense attorneys at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon accused the United States Thursday of political interference in the court’s work after the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on defendant Mustafa Badreddine.
“The Defence questions the rationale behind the timing of the sanctions, which do not appear, in so far as they concern Mr. Badreddine, to be related to any alleged support on his part to the Assad regime,” Badreddine’s attorneys said in a statement.
“Rather, having been adopted a few weeks after a date was set for trial in March 2013, the imposition of sanctions appears to be an attempt to influence the Tribunal, prejudicing the minds of the judiciary against Mr. Badreddine in advance of his impending trial and thus interfering with the proper administration of justice.”
“It is notable that in the US Treasury release there is no reference to the fact that Mr. Badreddine is presumed innocent of the charges brought by the STL Prosecutor,” the statement added.
Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah for allegedly providing support to the Syrian regime, as well as on Talal Hamiyah and Badreddine for supporting the party’s “terrorist activities in the Middle East and around the world.”
Badreddine, along with three other members of Hezbollah, was indicted by the U.N.-backed court in the 2005 attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The defense attorneys also said that Badreddine was not likely to receive a fair trial since the United States, which referred to Badreddine as a “senior terrorist leader,” provides funding to court.
In response to the defense statement, the court rejected the suggestion that the U.S. could influence judicial proceedings.
“It does not matter that the U.S. has branded him 'a senior terrorist leader.’ The only thing the judges make their decisions on is the evidence related to the attack on 14 February 2005,” STL spokesman Marten Youssef told The Daily Star.
“There are 26 countries on 5 continents that support the tribunal financially. That support for the STL is strictly financial and stops there; there is no room for interference in the judicial process,” he added.
The four accused by the STL remain at large and have had no contact with the attorneys appointed for them by the court.
A tentative start date for a trial in absentia has been set for next March.