Tuesday, January 18, 2011
BEIRUT: With the Special Tribunal for Lebanon having issued its indictments dossier to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen Monday, here is a timeline of the major events in the assassination of former statesman Rafik Hariri:
n Feb. 14, 2005 – Five-time Prime Minister Hariri is assassinated after a massive car bomb hits his motorcade while making its way through the Ain al-Mreisseh area of Downtown Beirut. Twenty-two others, mainly Hariri’s bodyguards, are killed in the blast, which prompts widespread protests against Syria’s military presence in Lebanon.
n April 7, 2005 – The U.N. establishes its International Independent Investigation Committee (U.N.I.I.I.C.), headed by German Prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.
n Aug. 30, 2005 – Four former pro-Syrian Lebanese generals – Ali al-Hajj, Raymond Azar, Jamil al-Sayyed and Mustafa Hamdan – are detained by police for questioning by U.N. investigators. The generals would be held for almost four years in connection with Hariri’s murder.
n Oct. 20, 2005 – Mehlis releases his first report, in which he writes that investigators have failed to identify a reasonable motive for the crime. Among witnesses cited in the report is Zuheir Mohammad al-Siddiq, who claims to have witnessed Syria’s preparations for the crime. In a handwritten letter to the U.N. Siddiq confesses to involvement in assassination planning, thereby implicating Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services personnel. Mehlis’ report also details 10 cellphone numbers used to “organize surveillance on Mr. Hariri and to carry out the assassination.”
n Nov. 12, 2006 – Five Hizbullah and Amal movement ministers resign from Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s cabinet as ongoing negotiations to form a government stall. Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf, allied to President Emile Lahoud, follows shortly afterward. The depleted cabinet approves draft U.N. statutes for the formation of a special tribunal to try Hariri’s killers.
n May 30, 2007 – The U.N. Security Council agrees to the formation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Russia, China, Qatar and South Africa abstain from the vote, citing Lebanon’s current political divide. Siniora’s government offers the tribunal its support but, without the consent of Lahoud, court critics say the formation of the S.T.L. violates Lebanon’s Constitution.
n Nov. 13, 2007 – Canadian jurist Daniel Bellemare is appointed tribunal prosecutor. Bellemare succeeds Belgian investigator Serge Brammertz, who claims to have gathered names of individuals involved in the crime, as head of the investigation into Hariri’s death.
n March 1, 2009 – The tribunal sits for the first time in The Hague. Eleven judges – four of them Lebanese – are chosen for the court. Lebanon agrees to pay 49 percent of the tribunal’s budget, set at $51 million for its first year.
n April 29, 2009 – The tribunal orders the release of the four generals, following the retraction and subsequent discrediting of Siddiq’s testimonies and Bellemare’s submission to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen stating that they could not be tried within legal timeframes. Their release from Roumieh Prison, northeast of Beirut, prompts widespread scenes of adulation from supporters, who release bursts of celebratory gunfire. Sayyed claims his detention was politically motivated.
n July 16, 2010 – Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah labels the tribunal an “Israeli project” aimed at exploiting Israel’s penetration of Lebanon’s telecommunications network and says it will seek to indict “rogue” Hizbullah members.
n July 30 – Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad arrive in Beirut for an unprecedented summit aimed at using Lebanon’s two power-brokers to avert civil strife in the face of looming indictments.
n Sept. 6, 2010 – Calling the charge a “political allegation,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in a newspaper interview, retracts the accusation he made in 2005 that Syria was behind his father’s death.
n Nov. 21, 2010 – Canadian broadcaster CBC reports that Hizbullah members will be mentioned in forthcoming indictments, after obtaining information gathered by former police captain Wissam Eid.
n Jan. 12, 2011 – March 8 ministers resign from cabinet, followed by independent M.P. Adnan Sayyed Hussein, causing the collapse of Saad Hariri’s national unity government.
n Jan. 17, 2011 – Bellemare issues dossier including tribunal indictments to Fransen