Fundamentalist arrested in Hariri killing
Updated: 2005-10-23 08:50
The son and political heir of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on
Saturday called for an international tribunal to try his father's killers after
a U.N. probe implicated top Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials.
In this photo made available by Lebanon's
official news agency, Saad Hariri, son of slain former Prime Minister
Rafik Hariri, delivers a speech from his residence in the Saudi Arabian
city of Jiddah, Saturday Oct. 22, 2005.
Lebanese security officials,
meanwhile, said police had arrested an Islamic fundamentalist in connection with
the assassination — the first since chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis
released his findings into the investigation of Feb. 14 killing of Hariri in a
Beirut car bombing.
Saad Hariri, the former premier's son and a Lebanese legislator, made the
appeal two days after Mehlis handed his report to the U.N. Security Council. He
praised the U.N. investigation, which said there was a clear link between Syrian
and Lebanese intelligence officials in the bombing.
"The hour of truth has come. ... The blood of the martyr Rafik Hariri and his
colleagues in the march toward freedom, dignity, sovereignty will not have been
shed in vain," he said in a televised speech from his home in Jiddah, Saudi
"The culprits who planned this terrorist crime and participated in executing
and covering it up will face, God willing, the punishment they deserve," he
Syrian Foreign Ministry adviser Riyad Dawoodi, meanwhile, reiterated his
country's criticism of the U.N. report, saying it was false, politicized and
aimed at targeting Damascus rather than uncovering the truth.
He said Mehlis also relied on witnesses who lacked credibility, including an
alleged former Syrian intelligence officer, Zuhair Mohammed Al-Siddiq, who was
arrested last week in Paris after it appeared he gave false testimony to the
"All that was contained in the report is based on presumptions and
allegations," Dawoodi said. "There's no proof."
Saad Hariri, who heads the largest anti-Syrian bloc in Lebanon's parliament
and had demanded the U.N. probe into his father's killing, spoke shortly before
Lebanon's Cabinet was to meet for discussions on the report.
He called for an international tribunal to try the alleged killers.
"Reaching justice presents the Arab and international community with
additional responsibilities that prompt us to urge them to continue all aspects
of the investigation in the crime and refer it to an international court that is
capable of punishing the criminals," he said. "We do not seek revenge. We seek
Late Saturday, police arrested Mahmoud Abdel-Al, a member of the pro-Syrian
Al-Ahbash Sunni Muslim Orthodox group, in Beirut, security officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to give official statements, said a judge based his decision to
detain Abdel-Al upon a recommendation from chief U.N. investigators.
Mehlis' report alleged that Abdel-Al called pro-Syrian Lebanese President
Emile Lahoud on his mobile telephone minutes before the blast that killed
Hariri. Lahoud denied receiving such a call.
The U.N. inquiry claimed that shortly after, Abdel-Al also contacted one of
four Lebanese pro-Syrian generals who have since been arrested in the probe.
Police also seized unspecified documents during the raid on Abdel-Al's home,
the officials said without elaborating.
Abdel-Al's brother is a prominent figure in Al-Ahbash group, Ahmad Abdel-Al,
whom Mehlis identified as a "key figure" in the ongoing investigation.
On Friday, President Bush called on the U.N. to deal quickly and seriously
with the report, which he said "strongly suggests that the politically motivated
assassination could not have taken place without Syrian involvement."
The U.S. and France were readying U.N. Security Council resolutions critical
of Syria. The Security Council was scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the
But Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin on Saturday warned
against responding too quickly to the report, saying it would require "thorough
study and analysis." Syria has long been allied with Russia.
"We are convinced that the settlement of this problem should in no way lead
to the emergence of a new hotbed of tension and further destabilization in the
Middle East," Kamynin said in a statement posted on the ministry's Web site.
Dawoodi said Damascus would continue to cooperate with the investigation but
stopped short of saying Syria would allow witnesses to be questioned by Mehlis
"We'll see what is the extent of this cooperation," he said.
Rafik Hariri's assassination ignited mass anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon
coupled with intense international pressure that forced Syria to withdraw
thousands of troops from Lebanon and end nearly three decades of military
domination of its neighbor.
Many Lebanese blamed the killing on Syria and pro-Syrian Lebanese security
chiefs. Syria and its Lebanese allies denied any involvement. Four Lebanese
generals who ran the security services at the time Hariri was killed have been
jailed for alleged involvement in the murder.
After the April withdrawal, anti-Syrian groups led by Saad Hariri were swept
to power in parliamentary elections and a new government, largely independent of
Syria, took power over the summer.