Lebanon press divided over Hariri indictment

Leaking names to media outlets is questionable

GMT 07:43 2011 Friday ,01 July

Arab Today, arab today Leaking names to media outlets is questionable

The indictment is widely expected to implicate members of Lebanon's Shiite militant Hezbollah
Beirut - AFP

The indictment is widely expected to implicate members of Lebanon's Shiite militant Hezbollah Lebanese newspapers on Friday mirrored the deep political rift in the country after a UN-backed tribunal issued indictments in the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri. While dailies loyal to the Saudi-backed Hariri dynasty hailed Thursday's indictment -- expected to implicate Hezbollah members in the case -- as a triumph of justice, those close to the militant group slammed it as another Israeli plot.
"After the truth comes justice," declared the front-page headline of Al-Mustaqbal, a daily owned by the Hariri family.
"Time is up for the killers as the time of justice begins," read the daily's editorial. "It is noteworthy that Hezbollah's leadership has thus far had no comment on the arrest warrants... which all target members of Hezbollah."
Others, however, were less jubilant, with papers close to Hezbollah raising questions over the timing of the indictment.
"It is easy to draw the conclusion... that the political moment the tribunal chose to issue its political indictment is directly linked to ongoing preparation for a new Israeli war on Lebanon's resistance (Hezbollah) and possibly Syria," Al-Akhbar columnist Ibrahim al-Amin wrote.
As-Safir, another Arabic-language daily loyal to the Iranian- and Syrian-backed group, slammed the Netherlands-based tribunal for its secrecy, saying it lacked credibility.
"The indictment did not come as a surprise, but there are several question marks surrounding it," read a front-page editorial.
"The secrecy of the Special Tribunal in notifying authorities of its decisions, of keeping the indictment sealed but leaking names and details to obscure media outlets and websites, is questionable."
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Thursday confirmed it had issued an indictment in the February 14, 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others.
The indictment is widely expected to implicate members of Lebanon's Shiite militant Hezbollah, a move the armed movement has repeatedly warned against.
The tribunal, based near The Hague, has handed Lebanese prosecutor general Said Mirza arrest warrants for four Lebanese but did not disclose their identities.
Leaks had been made to the press in recent years over the names of those implicated, with Lebanese television network LBC reporting the four were members of Hezbollah.
Among the four is Mustafa Badreddine, brother-in-law of top operative Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a 2008 bombing in Damascus, according to LBC.
Badreddine was said to have supervised the Hariri assassination. He had previously been arrested in Kuwait for planning to bomb the US embassy, LBC reported.
Salim Ayyash, a Hezbollah member who holds US citizenship and headed the cell that carried out the bombing, is also among the suspects, according to LBC.
Hezbollah officials contacted by AFP declined to comment.
Hassan Nasrallah, who heads the Shiite group, will give a televised address on Saturday night to announce his position against the indictment.

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