And Now, It’s Lebanon!

AMSTERDAM – The prosecutor at the U.N.-backed Lebanon tribunal filed an amended indictment on Friday in the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri after new evidence emerged, which could further delay the process.

The Lebanon tribunal, the world’s first international court with jurisdiction over the crime of terrorism, was set up to try those accused over the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others.

In a statement Friday, the prosecutor said an indictment that was filed on March 11 was replaced to “include substantive new elements unavailable until recently.” A prosecutor spokeswoman declined to comment on what those elements were.

“The amendment of an indictment or the filing of new indictments is and will continue to be guided solely by the evidence uncovered by the ongoing investigation,” the prosecutor said in the statement.

Hariri was killed by a huge truck bomb, triggering international condemnation that forced neighboring Syria to end a 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

Six months after the February 14, assassination, four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were arrested at the request of the U.N. investigator. A report delivered to the U.N. Security Council initial findings implicated high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese officials in the murder.

The prosecutor does not intend to make further amendments to the indictment unless ordered to do so by the pre-trial judge, although other indictments could be filed in the future if the evidence warrants, the statement said.

The prosecutor’s original indictment filed in January, the contents of which are still secret, set off a political crisis in Lebanon, where the militant Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government of Hariri’s son, Saad al-Hariri.

On March 11, the prosecutor said he had expanded the scope of the indictment and that, as a result, its review could take months rather than weeks.

Friday’s statement said that the pre-trial judge was working to complete the review process as quickly as possible following the amendment, adding that no fixed timeframe was set but it was anticipated that this would be completed in the coming months.

Lebanese officials and Western diplomats expect the court to accuse Hezbollah members of involvement in the assassination, a prospect Lebanese politicians fear could fuel tensions.

Copyright 2011 Reuters.
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