2005 Hariri assassination: Hezbollah operative sentenced to five life terms
The United Nations-backed Lebanon Tribunal on Friday sentenced Hezbollah operative Salim Ayache convicted of conspiring to kill former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in 2005 to five concurrent life sentences.
Hariri’s 2005 assassination in a massive car bomb blast rocked Lebanon, leading to huge protests and international pressure that resulted in the eventual withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country, 30 years after they entered during Lebanon’s civil war.
Salim Ayache had a “central”, “leading role” as part of the assassination team that was “integral to the assassination”, the court said.
The trial was conducted in absentia and Ayache remains at large. Three alleged accomplices were acquitted due to insufficient evidence.
Ayache was convicted for the “conspiracy of committing a terrorist act”, “committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device” and the “intentional homicide” of Hariri with premeditation by using explosive materials.
He was also charged with the intentional homicide of 21 people and the attempted intentional homicide of 226 people.
“Those who are shielding him from justice should surrender him to the special tribunal,” Trial Chamber Judge David Re said in his closing remarks. “The trial chamber is satisfied it should impose the maximum sentence for each of the five crimes of a life sentence to be served concurrently.”
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) called on Lebanon to establish a fund to compensate survivors and the families of victims of the assassination.
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son, had not commented on the verdict hours after it was announced.
Saad Hariri has participated in three coalition governments with Hezbollah in the past and is currently seeking to form his fourth government, which is set to include ministers selected by the party.