International court releases names of 4 Hezbollah suspects in 2005 Hariri assassination

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands – A U.N.-backed international court released the names Friday of four officials of the Hezbollah militia who are wanted on suspicion of murder in the 2005 truck bomb that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Among the suspects is Mustafa Amine Badreddine, believed to have been Hezbollah’s deputy military commander who also has been linked to the 1983 truck bombings at the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait.

The tribunal also named Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra, all of whom the Shiite militia has claimed as members. The group has become a central player in Lebanese politics and its support is vital for the current government.

The brief biographies of the suspects did not mention their affiliation with Hezbollah.

All were indicted one month ago, but their identities were withheld until the Lebanese authorities were informed. Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare persuaded the court that publication of the names and photographs of the suspects- despite the risks – would increase the prospects for their arrest.

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Hezbollah has denied any role in the killing and has vowed never to turn over any of its members. Its implication in the killing of Hariri, the billionaire businessman credited with rebuilding Lebanon after its 1975-1990 civil war, has threatened to re-ignite the conflict.

Despite those fears, the court said it had taken into consideration the effects of revealing the identities.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who was Hezbollah’s pick for the post, issued a vague promise earlier this month that Lebanon would respect international resolutions as long as they did not threaten domestic security.

The ambiguous wording leaves room to brush aside the arrest warrants if street battles are looming.

In a recent interview with CNN, he said the government will do everything it can to apprehend those indicted – if they are in Lebanon.

Most details of the indictment remain secret, and the court mentions no motive for the Feb. 14, 2005, bombing.

The indictment said each was charged with complicity in the premeditated murder Hariri of 21 others, plus the attempted homicide of 231 people wounded in the bombing. In 2005, the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission said 22 others were killed in the blast, but prosecutors say one of the dead detonated the fatal bomb.

“Although the suicide bomber is among the deceased, he is not considered a ‘murder victim’ for the purpose of a criminal prosecution,” said the prosecutor’s office.

Badreddine, 50, is the brother-in-law of the late Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, considered one of the world’s most wanted terrorists when he was killed by a mysterious car bomb in Syria in 2008.

International arrest warrants were issued for the suspects July 8. The court said responsibility for apprehending them rests with the Lebanese government, and Beirut is to report back by Aug. 11 on what it has done to detain and transfer them to the custody of the Netherlands-based tribunal.