Lebanon News

Hizbullah reasserts right to defend itself against 'politicized' STL

BEIRUT: Hizbullah officials said Sunday the party has the right to resort to all means it deems appropriate to defend itself against the “politicized” UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s murder.

“There will be no concessions when it comes to defending ourselves or facing false accusations and we have the absolute right to use what we see appropriate in that regard,” Hizbullah MP Nawwaf Moussawi said.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, who was formerly a staunch supporter of the STL before moving closer to Hizbullah,  said on Sunday that the impending indictment by the STL would, if issued, hinder civil peace, the Taif Accord and drag the resistance into conflicts.

“The best way to establish justice in [former Premier Rafik] Hariri’s murder is through a united stance revealing the truth behind false witnesses and dismissing the use of the court by some states in an international game to serve their interests,” Jumblatt said.

“We [established] the tribunal but we now wish that it was [never founded],” Jumblatt said as he stressed that the accomplishment of objectives behind UN Security Council Resolution 1559 were still sought through the UN-backed tribunal.

The UN Resolution of 2004 called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the disarming of all armed Lebanese and Palestinian militias in the country.

However, Future Movement officials reiterated Sunday that no compromises would take place at the expense of the STL as that would pave the way for future assassinations.

“Our insistence on the STL aims to find a way to prevent putting an end to the life of individuals because of disagreements in politics,” Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar said. He added that parties threatening strife, if the STL continues, are “those seeking it.”

Separately, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit voiced his country’s support for the STL as well as “Lebanese parties backing the court” against “internal and foreign voices that seek to drag the country into political and security confrontation to serve regional interests.”

Hizbullah, which condemned the STL as an Israeli project, has warned that it would not stand neutral if the STL indicts its members of involvement in the murder. Hizbullah’s second-in-command Sheikh Naim Qassem demanded the adoption of an official national stance accusing Israel of the murder.

MP Moussawi also defended Hizbullah’s armed presence at the airport last weekend. Members of Hizbullah security apparatus escorted former head of the General Security Jamil al-Sayyed from the plane  to the airport VIP lounge where,  during a news conference, he slammed Prime Minister Saad Hariri and a number of judicial and security officials for allegedly misleading investigations by the STL.

Hizbullah said members who escorted Sayyed were party MPs’ and ministers’ bodyguards and thus were authorized to be armed, remarks that Interior Minister Zyiad Baroud corroborated, while March 14 officials claimed that “militia members invaded the airport.”

The March 14 officials have also accused Hizbullah of allowing Sayyed to hold a news conference without prior authorization by the Foreign Ministry, in line with applicable laws.

“What happened will happen again whenever we want it to happen,” Moussawi said.

He said the STL was a politicized entity that continues to “protect a political party that fabricated false witnesses upon the demand of the US.”

“US Secretary of State Assistant Jeffrey Feltman’s testimony that the UN probe is not politicized is a proof in itself of its politicization,” Moussawi said.

Qassem said the STL was aimed against the resistance and sought to protect Israel through diverting attention away from unjust peace negotiations.

He tied the indictment by the UN court to attempts to cover up concessions offered by Arab states to the US and Israel at the expense of the Palestinian cause.

“Truth will be buried if the current course of the STL is adopted,” Qassem said.

Hizbullah’s ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun also cast doubt on the credibility of the international community and the UN Security Council concerning the investigation of false witnesses.

“What prevents the Security Council and the international community from fabricating yet another lie and hiding the truth by preventing to put false witnesses on trial?” Aoun asked.

Hariri’s press office denied during a phone conversation with The Daily Star that the prime minister would head from Saudi Arabia to Damascus to meet with the Syrian president prior to his arrival to Beirut on Monday.

 

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