BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon's defense team should be given sufficient time to prepare for the trial of the Hezbollah members suspect of involvement in assassination former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Tuesday.
During the meeting with STL defense head Francois Roux, Mikati “stressed on the importance of giving the necessary time for the defense to carry out its duties fully so that the court's work is objective and fair,” the prime minister’s office said.
Roux voiced his satisfaction with regards to the cooperation of the political and judicial authorities in Lebanon.
The lawyer also met with Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi.
The defense team has asked the tribunal to push back the trial's start day, which is set for March 25, given what the lawyers have said is the prosecution’s failure to disclose all relevant documents crucial to the case.
The attorneys, who were appointed last February to represent Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra, cited in a statement last month the “continuing non-cooperation of the relevant Lebanese authorities ... and the absence of the accused.”
In a hearing chaired by Pretrial Judge Daniel Fransen last week, the prosecution supported the defense's request to delay the trial date. Fransen said he was not ready to make a decision on the issue but would do so swiftly.
The prosecution said that it would complete disclosure of all documents by March 11 but, following the lead of the defense attorneys, did not suggest an alternative start date.
The proceeding will be held in absentia as the men remain at large.
Hezbollah has repeatedly denied involvement in the case with the party’s secretary general Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowing never to hand over the suspects.
The U.N.-backed court was established in 2007 to investigate the 2005 assassination of Hariri. In 2011, the prosecution accused four Hezbollah members of involvement in the killing.