- Rafic Hariri was killed along with 21 other Lebanese citizens in a bomb blast in Beirut in 2005.
- The International Criminal Court in The Hague convicted Salim Jamil Ayyash and sentenced him to prison in absentia.
- Lebanese authorities welcomed the verdict.
The United States has welcomed the conviction of a Hezbollah member by an international tribunal for the murder of Rafic Hariri. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed satisfaction with the sentencing of Salim Ayyash in absentia, and said that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization serving the sectarian goals of Iran.
Pompeo said in a statement issued on Tuesday that the “ruling underscores the importance of rendering justice and ending impunity, which is imperative to ensuring Lebanon’s security, stability, and sovereignty.” He went on to say:
“Ayyash’s conviction helps confirm what the world is increasingly recognizing that Hezbollah and its members are not defenders of Lebanon as they claim to be but constitute a terrorist organization dedicated to advancing Iran’s malign sectarian agenda.”
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands on Tuesday found the 56-year-old man, Salim Jamil Ayyash, guilty in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, and sentenced him to prison in absentia. Rafic Hariri was killed along with 21 other Lebanese citizens in a bomb blast in Beirut in 2005.
Toby Cadman, an international human rights lawyer, told reporters:
“If you go back to the beginning of the trial, in the opening speech of the prosecutor, there was a reference to the Syrian regime, so there was an attempt to implicate the Assad regime and to go after the leadership. Unfortunately, whether it is a lack of independent evidence to produce such a link is anyone’s guess.”
He added, “from the outside perspective, there would have been more satisfaction after close to $1 billion spent that it would have gone after those who actually ordered it.”
According to the president of the court, the leadership of Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Syrian government may have demanded the ouster of Rafic Hariri, but there is no court evidence that they were directly involved in the assassination.
The Hague tribunal, which tried the four defendants in absentia, found Salim Ayash guilty and acquitted three other defendants. All four defendants are former or current members of Hezbollah.
The Reaction of the Lebanese Authorities
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of Rafic Hariri, held a press conference after the verdict was announced in The Hague. “The family of the late prime minister” accepts the verdict, and calls for “fair retribution for the perpetrators,” he said.
Noting that the Lebanese wanted to know the truth behind the assassination, Saad Hariri stressed that they were seeking justice. He said that “justice that will be done as time goes on.”
Reacting to an international court ruling, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that the assassination of Rafic Hariri “targeted his national personality and national plan,” and was “a threat to Lebanon’s internal stability and peace.”
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, also said the Hague court ruling was a confirmation of “justice and stability.” According to him, Prime Minister Hariri has always dreamed of Lebanese national unity.
“The ruling of the special court must be a means to win Lebanon,” said Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese parliament, referring to Rafic Hariri’s call for Lebanese cohesion and unity.