BEIRUT: Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah urged Lebanese officials and citizens Thursday to boycott probes carried out by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), warning that those who continue to cooperate will be participating in an attack against the resistance.
“I ask every official and every citizen in Lebanon to boycott those investigators and refrain from cooperating with them … because all that is presented is passed on to the Israelis,” Nasrallah said in the wake of an incident involving STL investigators and women at a medical clinic in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
“Continued cooperation … on the one hand helps to desecrate the country on all levels and on the other hand assaults the resistance,” he added.
Nasrallah said examinations of a gynecologist’s patient records, primarily records of prominent Hizbullah officials’ wives, is a breach of ethical, religious and humanitarian norms that is no longer acceptable.
“We reached a very critical point that cannot be ignored irrespective of any internal, political or foreign considerations … This is a turning point and what will follow will be different from before,” Nasrallah said.
He said current investigations by the UN-backed tribunal were attempts to collect information on Hizbullah rather than to investigate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s murder “since the STL indictment was formulated back in 2006 to frame Hizbullah members.”
Nasrallah added that he had been informed “minutes” earlier that the US was pressing STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare to issue the indictment before December in a bid to deal a blow to Saudi-Syrian efforts to preserve stability in Lebanon and spark strife in the country.
In one of the first reactions to Nasrallah’s remarks, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said the comments were threats against the Lebanese state and called for an urgent meeting of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Cabinet.
“What Sayyed Nasrallah said is very dangerous and include threats against the Lebanese state, since there is a memorandum between Lebanon and the UN that compels Lebanese institutions to cooperate with the investigation,” Geagea told Al-Arabiya satellite news channel.
“The Cabinet was committed in its policy statement to the STL and to support it and I call for a government session very soon to evaluate whether we should continue with this government and its policy statement,” he added.
Commenting on the news conference, political science professor at the American University of Beirut Hilal Khashan told The Daily Star that “Hizbullah cornered itself, making it hard to find a way out [of the crisis].”
Khashan said Nasrallah’s statements were extremely defensive and indicated that the party would start escalating its stances.
“Will they take a step similar to Hamas in Gaza? I do not know how this escalation will proceed,” Khashan added.
March 14 officials said Wednesday’s attack by a crowd of women against STL investigators in Beirut’s southern suburbs was a Hizbullah-engineered attack to obstruct the court similarly to earlier incidents that pitted south Lebanon residents against the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
Police sources and witnesses said 150 women were transported to the clinic where two investigators accompanied by a Lebanese interpreter arrived to interview the gynecologist.
President Michel Sleiman gave instructions to continue investigations “to establish the facts about the incident in order to adopt the appropriate measures to determine responsibilities and prevent future similar incidents,” a statement by the National News Agency said.
Separately, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said Lebanon was committed to protecting UN investigators.
Earlier Thursday, Hizbullah officials denied that the incident had been coordinated but said it “was rather a normal and spontaneous reaction to the STL’s violations of the sanctity of humanitarian institutions.”
Future Movement MP Mohammad Kabbara said Hizbullah’s masked attack against the investigation committee was an attempt to tamper with evidence and deal a blow to the international probe.
Kabbara said Hizbullah would not have ventured in public and attacked investigators “had it not been that their situation was precarious.”
“Why would Hizbullah want to shatter evidence? What is its interest in doing so? And why does Hizbullah fear such evidence?” Kabbara asked.
In the meantime, March 8 MP Qassem Hashem said the sanctity of clinics should not be invaded despite clearance granted by the order of physicians. “This is a normal reaction,” he said.