Justice or Peace? Hariri Trial Could Spark Further Unrest in Lebanon

Twenty-two other people died in the attack on Hariri, which took place on Valentine’s Day in 2005. The investigation into the bombing has been extremely political and full of errors.

Proceedings in the case of murdered ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri are set to being in the Netherlands this week. The trial could cause further unrest in a country that is already on the verge of chaos.

Rarely has there been a case like this one. The crime was both dramatic and brutal, the investigation was plagued by shocking errors and surprising twists. And rarely has a criminal case had such geopolitical significance. On Thursday, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will begin hearing the case in an unimposing building in the Dutch town of Leidschendam near The Hague. The outcome is uncertain.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in an attack in Beirut almost nine years ago. Twenty-two bodyguards and passersby also lost their lives in the explosion. Six-and-a-half years ago, the United Nations decided to investigate the murder and established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, also known as the STL. In the intervening years, the tribunal, which is funded by 28 countries, Germany included, has spent more than a quarter-billion dollars in its quest for truth.

Scandals have accompanied the investigation from the very beginning. High-ranking UN deputies have stepped down, for “private reasons.” Others have been duped by dubious witnesses. In Lebanon, there are many who believe the tribunal has a Western bias; in the West, on the other hand, people worry that the UN body has withheld facts that could be uncomfortable for the Arab world.

Scandals have accompanied the investigation from the very beginning. High-ranking UN deputies have stepped down, for “private reasons.” Others have been duped by dubious witnesses. In Lebanon, there are many who believe the tribunal has a Western bias; in the West, on the other hand, people worry that the UN body has withheld facts that could be uncomfortable for the Arab world.

Read more at Der Spiegel

US targets major drug cartel: Hezbollah – Ya Libnan

The Obama administration charged Hezbollah with operating like an international drug cartel and blacklisted two Lebanese money-exchange houses for allegedly moving tens of millions of dollars of drug profit through the U.S. financial system on behalf of the militant group.

The Treasury Department’s action Tuesday marked the latest salvo in a two-year U.S. government campaign against Hezbollah’s alleged drug-trafficking activities.

U.S. officials alleged that Hezbollah is using proceeds from this narcotics trade to fund international terrorist activities and to bolster the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in their fight against a widening political rebellion.

U.S. officials also said Hezbollah is increasingly reverting to illicit trade to offset diminished funding coming from Iran, the organization’s closest ally.

“Hezbollah is operating like a major drug cartel,” said Derek Maltz, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, who is overseeing the U.S. probe into Hezbollah. “These proceeds are funding violence against Americans.”

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry concluded that Hezbollah operatives conducted last year’s bombing of a tourism bus at a Black Sea resort that killed five Israeli nationals. The European Union is considering imposing broadsanctions on Hezbollah as a result.

Read more at Ya Libnan.

This article is from the archives. I feel that it is worth republishing because it is of major historical importance and relevance to understanding current Middle East events. Broadly speaking, Hezbollah might be thought of as the Shi’ite equivalent of Sunni-based Al Qaeda. I know that’s a crude comparison. But in Syria, these two radical Islamist ideologies are principle players in a major, regional civil conflict that has resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people.

Former minister killed in Beirut car bomb

Forensic experts check the site of explosion near a crater in Beirut, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Former Minister Mohammad Shatah, a senior aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, was killed along with five other people in a car bomb blast in Downtown Beirut Friday, a security source said.

The March 14 coalition, which is headed by the Future Movement, pointed the finger of blame at the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad, which swiftly denied the allegations.

Shatah’s vehicle was making its way in the capital’s bustling central district at the time of the explosion, which also killed Mohammad Tareq Badr, the former finance minister’s bodyguard, the source said, adding that 70 people were also wounded in the blast that struck at around 9.45 a.m.

The 62-year-old, who was also a close aide to former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, was headed to Hariri’s Downtown residence where a meeting of the March 14 coalition was under way.

His killing comes days before the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon begins the trial of four Hezbollah suspects over the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the founder of the Future Movement.

Read more at The Daily Star-Lebanon