Hariri murder trial comes back to spotlight
BEIRUT - The publication of a list of so-called witnesses for the trial on the 2005 assassination of Lebanon's former premier Rafiq Hariri was denounced Thursday by his son and the court as an "attempt at intimidation."
The list was published this week by a previously unknown group identified as "Journalists for the truth", who say they seek to "unveil the corruption" of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating and trying Hariri's killers.
It names 167 people and includes their photographs, professions and addresses.
In a statement, the STL condemned "in the strongest possible terms the latest attempt to interfere with the proper administration of justice by publishing a list of alleged witnesses and potentially endangering the lives of Lebanese citizens".
"The list of persons that could be placed at risk by this irresponsible website is not, in fact, an accurate reflection of official court records," it added.
The publication is "a clear attempt at intimidating supposed witnesses by so-called 'journalists'," STL spokesman Marten Youssef said.
The actual witness list "is confidential until the judges determine otherwise," he added.
"There are several considerable efforts to destabilise the work of the Tribunal and to threaten supposed witnesses," said Youssef.
Rafiq Hariri's son Saad, himself a former prime minister, also denounced the "leak".
"Intimidating witnesses whose names are supposed to be kept secret is a criminal act aimed at scaring them into failing to stand before the court," Hariri said in a statement.
The STL was set up by the United Nations at Lebanon's request. It seeks to try four members of the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah for the attack that killed Hariri and 22 others on February 14, 2005, in Beirut.
Hezbollah accuses the court of being part of an "Israeli-US" plot, and has yet to hand over the four witnesses.
The STL has given rise to fierce debate in Lebanon, which is sharply divided into the camp led by Hezbollah and its rivals in the March 14 movement.
Asked about the list, Hezbollah refused to comment.
Although it was meant to begin on March 25, the judicial process has been postponed indefinitely as the defence team has argued it has not received the necessary documents from the prosecution.