Bellemare to Siniora: Fifth STL Suspect to be Named

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STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare broke news of the impending charges to former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who heads the Hariri-led Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc. (Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

By: Hassan Illeik

Published Monday, February 6, 2012

During his low-key visit to Beirut, STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare reportedly told March 14 leader Fouad Siniora a fifth person is expected to be indicted in the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri.

The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probing the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, and related crimes, is close to completing its second set of indictments following those it issued last year against four members of Hezbollah, according to high-level sources in the March 14 coalition.

STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare broke news of the impending charges to former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who heads the Hariri-led Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc, at an unpublicised and unofficial meeting they held during Bellemare’s visit to Beirut late last month, according to sources.

Bellemare said he was working on a draft of the new indictments, and would finalize it before he steps down from this post, ostensibly on health grounds, at the beginning of March. The fresh charges relate to attempts made on the lives of MPs Elias Murr and Marwan Hamadeh, and the slaying of Georges Hawi, in the wake of the Hariri assassination.

According to Al-Akhbar’s sources, Bellemare revealed that the new indictments will name a fifth suspect in addition to the four men already accused in connection with Hariri’s killing. They said Bellemare denied, when asked, that the names of any Syrians would feature in the draft.

Bellemare stressed to his interlocutors that he was confident of the evidence and facts underpinning the document, and that he plans to have it ready by the end of the month. He also reiterated his oft-stated belief that circumstantial evidence can be more compelling than direct evidence, and dismissed criticism of the first indictment on the grounds that it was based on circumstantial evidence. He said the importance of the evidence detailed in the first indictment would be highlighted by the second.

Sources close to Siniora did not deny that the meeting with Bellemare took place, but declined to elaborate about details.

Officially, Bellemare’s meetings during his farewell visit to Beirut confined to government figures responsible for cooperation with the STL or involved in making decisions about it. He held talks with the president, the prime minister, the ministers of defense, interior, justice and foreign affairs. In addition, he met with security and military chiefs, as well as some family members of victims of the bombing and a number of those affected.

In most of his meetings with officials, Bellemare reportedly did little more than exchange pleasantries about how much he had grown to like Lebanon and its people. However, informed sources said that during his meeting with head of army intelligence Brigadier General Edmond Fadel, Bellemare said he wished his team had been able to make more use of information held by military intelligence.

STL-related issues have been much debated in Lebanon’s political salons over the past few days, in connection with the government crisis triggered at the Cabinet’s last meeting. Political sources from a variety of camps have linked Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s upping of the ante against Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform Bloc both to reports of an impending indictment, and to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s consultations with the Lebanese government about extending the STL’s mandate.

Sources who met Ban during his stay in Beirut were told that when he spoke in favor of a three-year extension of the STL mandate during his meeting with President Michel Suleiman, the latter did not respond. The UN secretary-general said he took the president’s silence as consent.

Some political observers believe Mikati’s decision to suspend Cabinet sessions until further notice stems from a desire to avoid a confrontation with Hezbollah over renewing the STL’s mandate. They suggest that Mikati would like to see the government crisis drag out until the issue is resolved, though the prime minister has adamantly denied that.

These observers cite reports that prior to last week’s controversial Cabinet session, Mikati told several ministers that he would insist on discussing a number of senior civil service appointments, and would call an adjournment if they were not approved.

Sources close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri say that his aides have been swapping notes with the parties to the crisis in order to test the waters. But no initiative will be launched to resolve their differences until their public exchange of recrimination eases and they moderate their respective demands.

Senior sources in the March 8 coalition believe that the real underlying problem is between Aoun and Suleiman. They say Berri and Maronite Patriarch Bishara Rai both see resolution of their dispute as key to enabling the government to operate properly.

Rai conferred on Thursday with Berri’s political advisor, Ali Hassan Khalil, and reportedly pledged to continue striving for an accommodation between the two men. Earlier the same day, the patriarch met with Aoun’s aide Gebran Bassil.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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