BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon postponed the trial date for the four Hezbollah suspects accused in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the court said Thursday.
“Pre-Trial Judge [Daniel Fransen] has postponed the start of trial in the case of Ayyash et al., in a decision issued today [Thursday],” the STL said in a Twitter post.
The U.N.-backed court indicted in 2011 Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – all Hezbollah members – in the assassination of Hariri, who was killed in a massive car bomb on Feb. 14, 2005 in Beirut.
In a separate post, the STL also noted that Fransen would soon set a new date to replace the original trial date of March 25.
Last month, defense attorneys representing the four requested Fransen change the start of the trial, arguing that the prosecution had failed to disclose all necessary documents.
They also claimed that Lebanon's government failed to cooperate with their requests for information.
The prosecution has supported the request to push back the date.
The STL said Thursday that Fransen asked the prosecution, the defense and the victims’ representative to submit reports with regard to their preparedness in order to set a new trial date.
“Judge Fransen found that certain disclosure obligations had not been met, which the Prosecution recognized,” the STL said in one of its posts, adding that the pre-trial judge also took note of cooperation requests by the defense team to the Lebanese authorities.
“[Fransen] found these facts to justify the Defense’s request to postpone trial date, which would otherwise not allow Defense time to prepare and would be in violation of the most basic right of the accused and the principle of fair trial,” it added.
Hezbollah denies any involvement in the case.
The four men will be tried in absentia.
Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, who has described the court as a U.S.-Israeli tool aimed at targeting his group, has said that his party will never hand over the suspects.