Farrell asks Hezbollah to hand over 3 members and world to 'assist in their arrest'17 June, 2022
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Special Tribunal for Lebanon Prosecutor Norman Farrell has noted that the conviction of Salim Ayyash, Hassan Merhi and Hussein Oneissi over their participation in the 2005 murder of ex-PM Rafik Hariri should not be “the final step towards accountability,” calling on Hezbollah to hand over its three members to authorities.
“Today we witnessed the completion of these proceedings against Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi et Hussein Hassan Oneissi, the three convicted persons for their heinous acts in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which caused incredible pain and suffering to the many victims and their families,” Farrell said in a statement, shortly after the STL Appeals Chamber sentenced Merhi and Oneissi to life imprisonment.
“Their efforts to deceive the public, shield themselves from justice and to remain unaccountable has failed. Today they were sentenced for their crimes,” Farrell added.
“It must be remembered that this is not the final step towards accountability. Justice demands that they be arrested. I call on those shielding the three convicted persons from justice to surrender them to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and on the international community to take whatever steps are available to assist in their arrest,” the Prosecutor went on to say.
Salim Jamil Ayyash had been sentenced to five concurrent sentences of life imprisonment in December 2020.
On March 10, 2022, the STL Appeals Chamber concluded in addition to convicting Merhi and Oneissi, that a network of phones, labelled by the Prosecution as the “Green Network”, was used to coordinate the attack. Merhi and Ayyash, both convicted by the Tribunal, were members of the Green Network. It also concluded that this network was coordinated by Mustafa Amin Badreddine, who was found to be a Hezbollah Military Commander during 2004 and 2005, and who was reportedly killed in Syria in 2016.
Prosecutor Farrell noted that “the details of the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri have been told to the Lebanese people through the presentation of compelling, credible evidence” and that “this result could not have been achieved without the courageous victims and witnesses who presented their evidence during a fair and independent judicial process.”
Finally, Farrell thanked the staff of his Office for their “hard work,” specifically the Deputy Prosecutor who “approached this work with independence and determination, in the search for the truth.”
The STL originally convicted Ayyash and cleared Merhi, Oneissi and Asad Sabra. It said there was no direct evidence of Damascus or its ally Hezbollah's involvement, but that the attack probably involved state actors and that the state with most to gain was Syria.
But in March it found Merhi and Oneissi guilty after an appeal by prosecutors, saying the original trial judges had "erred" by saying there was a lack of evidence. They upheld the acquittal of Sabra.
All three convicted men remain at large as Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has refused to hand over any of the suspects or to recognize the court.
The sentencing could be one of the last acts by the STL as the cash-strapped court has warned it will close imminently due to a shortage of funds.
The closure means a further trial against Ayyash in a separate case involving three attacks on Marwan Hamadeh, George Hawi and Elias Murr in 2004 and 2005 is now unlikely to ever take place.
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