The UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri said it had been told Tuesday that none of the Hezbollah members it had identified as suspects has been arrested. "The Lebanese Prosecutor General submitted his report today. He stated that none of the four people who are accused have been detained," the Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) said in a statement.
The court's pre-trial judge confirmed last month the names of the four men wanted in connection with the February 14, 2005, massive car bomb explosion in Beirut that killed Hariri and 22 others.
Judge Daniel Fransen ordered confidentiality around the charges against Salim Ayyash, 47, Mustafa Badreddine, 50, Hussein Anaissi, 37 and Assad Sabra, 34, be partially dropped. Ayyash and Badreddine face among others, charges of "committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device" and homicide including Hariri's death, while Anaissi and Sabra faced charges of conspiring to commit the same acts. Interpol has also issued wanted notices for the men.
But Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia which is now a key player in Lebanon's coalition government has ruled out the arrest of the four suspects, hinting that the STL was heading for a trial in absentia. The STL's president Antonio Cassese would now consider the report, it said. "(He) will in due course make a determination on the next steps," the statement said adding that Lebanon's obligation under a UN Security Council resolution to "arrest, detain and transfer the accused continued."