Lebanon News

Jumblatt urges suspects to appear before STL

Prosecutors of the U.N. Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) (L to R) Daryl Mundis, Norman Farrell, David Kinnecome and S. Winner attend the opening of the public hearing at the court in Leidschendam, near The Hague June 13, 2012. (REUTERS/Robert Vos)

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt called Monday on the four Hezbollah members accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to appear before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in order to defend themselves and avert further disputes related to the issue.

“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is a reality and the suspects can defend themselves before the court to avoid the continuing debate on this issue and to uncover the full truth behind the assassination,” Jumblatt said in his weekly statement to Al-Anbaa newspaper.

Jumblatt said the STL should focus its efforts on the suspects accused of killing Hariri, and not the entire Shiite community. “It is important to keep the trial focused only on the individuals who were indicted to avoid slipping into sectarian arguments that might have negative repercussions on many levels,” the PSP leader said.

He added that it was impossible to simply ignore the fact that the assassination of the former prime minister took place.

“We have demanded the full truth and justice and I reiterate our demands today,” Jumblatt added.

He also commented on the ongoing debate over Hezbollah’s weapons, warning that continuous bickering over the subject would not resolve the situation: “The constant debate over arms will not solve the problem.”

The March 14 coalition has repeatedly called for the disarmament of Hezbollah, arguing that only the state should decide when to use force. The resistance group says its weapons are necessary in order to defend the country against Israeli aggressions.

Jumblatt said clear guidelines are needed over the use of Hezbollah’s arms, which requires rival political parties to return to the national dialogue table in order to reach consensus on a national defense strategy.

“The sooner Lebanese rivals reach an agreement over a national defense strategy which only allows the state to be tasked with defending the country, the sooner Lebanon will be protected,” he added.

In September, President Michel Sleiman submitted a draft defense strategy to rival political groups. However, the discussions on the proposal ended following the Oct. 19 assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan. The opposition blamed Syria for the murder, holding the Lebanese government responsible for providing cover against assassinations, and has boycotted dialogue ever since.

“[Questions on] why the arms should be used, when, how and where would be answered only through the principles of the Baabda Declaration that the president stressed,” the Druze leader added.

“This is the right way to redirect Hezbollah’s arms so that they do not get lost in Qusayr [a village on the Syrian border] or other places in order to ensure that the honorable sacrifices and struggles of the resistance in south Lebanon are not forgotten,” he said.

Jumblatt, who returned from Saudi Arabia Sunday, said officials in Riyadh have expressed their support for preserving Lebanon’s stability and the Syrian people’s struggle against President Bashar Assad.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2013, on page 4.




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