UN panel blames 'criminal network' for Hariri murder

A "criminal network" of individuals acted together to carry out the 2005 murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, a UN report confirmed Friday, insisting that suspects would be named only when there was sufficient evidence.

UN panel blames 'criminal network' for Hariri murder
The interim report by a panel headed by Canadian former prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said that it could now confirm that "on the basis of available evidence ... a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the assassination."

It added that this "criminal network" or parts of it were also linked to other attacks against anti-Syrian Lebanese figures perpetrated between October 2004 and December 2005.

The panel said it had also gathered evidence indicating that this network existed before the slaying, conducted surveillance of Hariri before the assassination and was operative on the day it occurred.

"At least part of the Hariri network continued to exist and operate after the assassination," it added.

"The commission's priority is now to gather more evidence about the Hariri network, its scope, the identity of all its participants, their links with others outside the network and their role in other attacks that have been found to be linked," said the report.

It made clear that for reasons of confidentiality, the panel would not disclose any names.

"Names of individuals will only appear in future indictments filed by the prosecutor, where there is sufficient evidence to do so," it noted.

The report is the first by Bellemare since he was appointed last November to succeed Belgian Serge Brammertz at the helm of the UN panel tasked with uncovering who was behind Hariri's death in a Beirut car bombing.

Sticking to the cautious stance adopted by his predecessor, Bellemare stressed that the investigation "must continue to be guided solely by the facts and by the evidence."

"Its conclusions cannot rely on rumors or assumption. They must be supported by reliable evidence that will be admissible before a tribunal," the report said.

Brammertz' German predecessor Detlev Mehlis had implicated senior officials from Syria, which for three decades was the power broker in its smaller neighbor. But Damascus has strongly denied any connection with Hariri's death.

In his interim report released last July, Brammertz said his investigators had identified several people who may have been involved in the assassination.

Turning to Syria's cooperation with the UN probe, the Bellamare-led panel said it "continues to be generally satisfactory."

"The commission will continue to request Syria's full cooperation in the discharge of its mandate," it said.

In addition to the Hariri case, the UN panel has been mandated to help Lebanese authorities probe 20 attacks against anti-Syrian targets in Lebanon.

These include one last January which killed Lebanon's top anti-terrorism investigator and three other people in Beirut.

Friday's report is the 10th by the UN team probing the murder of the popular five-time prime minister, who was killed along with 22 others in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.

The attack, which rocked Lebanon to the core, was one of the worst acts of political violence to rock the battered country since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The court will include a trial chamber made up of three judges -- two foreigners and one Lebanese -- and an appeals chamber of five judges -- two Lebanese and three foreigners.

UN officials said the judges have been selected, but their identity could not be disclosed for security reasons.

Last Mod: 30 Mart 2008, 17:27
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