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'Hariri indictment to be submitted in two days'

Sunday January 16, 2011 09:05:54 PM, DPA

Beirut: Lebanon's caretaker labour minister said Sunday that top politicians had been informed that an international tribunal examining the 2005 assassination of premier Rafik Hariri would submit an indictment "in the coming 48 hours".

Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) prosecutor Daniel Bellemare would submit a draft indictment for the murder to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen so long as "no delays are made due to certain judicial procedures", minister Butros Harb said.

Caretaker Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar refused to comment on Harb's statement, saying "I cannot deny or confirm the issue."

Meanwhile, the Lebanese MTV television station quoted STL Chief of Public Affairs Crispin Thorold as saying that Bellemare would hand over the indictment to Fransen before Wednesday.

According to the tribunal's rules of procedure, Fransen will next be tasked with confirming the confidential indictment before any arrest warrants or summonses are made.

Such a process can take up to six to ten weeks, according to a Lebanese judicial source.

The source said that Fransen can also reject the charges in part or in full, or ask the prosecutor for additional information, if he feels more clarification is needed.

Lebanon is currently engulfed in political turmoil, after the Shia movement Hezbollah and its allies withdrew from the Lebanese cabinet Wednesday in protest at the ongoing UN-backed investigation.

That prompted the collapse of the unity government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the murdered premier.

The expected indictment had divided the government, after reports indicated that Hezbollah members would be named in connection with Hariri's assassination.

Hezbollah has rejected any possible charges and described the work of the tribunal as a "US-Israeli project".

The STL was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution to try the people who plotted the attack which killed Hariri.

The former premier was assassinated in a car bomb attack on the Beirut seafront Feb 14, 2005, which also killed 22 other people.

On Sunday night, head of the Hezbollah movement Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to give a televised statement regarding the current political crisis and the expected indictment.




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