Court mulls trial in absentia for Hariri case

AP News
Posted: Oct 17, 2011 11:34 AM
Court mulls trial in absentia for Hariri case

Judges investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri are considering whether to stage a trial in absentia for four Hezbollah members accused in the slaying.

The suspects were indicted earlier this year, but Hezbollah has refused to arrest them and send them for trial at the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon's courtroom.

The court said in a statement Monday that trial judges have been asked "to determine whether proceedings in absentia should be initiated" against the four men.

The Iranian-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah denies involvement in the Feb. 14, 2005, truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others, including the suicide bomber, in Beirut.

The four suspects include Mustafa Badreddine, a Hezbollah commander who is also the suspected bombmaker for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.

The other suspects are Salim Ayyash, also known as Abu Salim; Assad Sabra and Hassan Oneissi, who changed his name to Hassan Issa.

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Under the tribunal's rules, judges can consider calling for a trial in absentia if the suspects are not arrested within 30 days of their names being advertised.

Monday's announcement comes a month after wanted posters for the four men were first displayed in Lebanon.