BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Tuesday that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s defense team should be given sufficient time to prepare for the trial of those accused of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
During a meeting with STL defense head Francois Roux, Mikati “stressed the importance of giving the defense the necessary time to carry out its duties fully so that the court’s work is objective and fair,” the prime minister’s office said.
Roux expressed his satisfaction with the political and judicial authorities’ cooperation with the STL, the Central News Agency reported. Roux and a defense delegation also met with Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi.
The defense team has asked the tribunal to push back the trial’s start date, which is set for March 25, after the lawyers said the prosecution failed to disclose all relevant documents crucial to the case.
The attorneys, who were appointed last February to represent Hezbollah members Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra, cited in a statement last month the “continuing noncooperation 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, however, following the lead of the defense attorneys, it did not suggest an alternative start date.
The proceedings will be held in absentia as the men remain at large.
Hezbollah has repeatedly denied involvement in the case, with Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowing never to hand over the suspects.