Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday defended the four members of the terrorist organization charged with the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, praising the men as “brothers” – and implying that Israel’s hand was behind the UN tribunal that issued last week’s indictments.
Speaking from an undisclosed location, Nasrallah addressed the allegations for the first time since the UN court announced the indictments on Thursday.
Charges that Hezbollah was behind the 2005 killing of the prominent Sunni leader have already inflamed sectarian tensions in the small and fractious country.
Nasrallah lamented that charges had been brought against “brothers who have made history in resisting the Zionist occupation.”
“We mentioned the possibility of having Israel involved in the murder, and the fact that [Israeli] agents were present at the murder scene one day before the murder,” he said, according to a translation provided by the website Now Lebanon.
“No one in the STL [Special Tribunal for Lebanon] even asked the Israelis anything. This is normal – why? Because the tribunal, since its formation, had a precise goal, and no one was allowed to talk to the Israelis…
“Instead of investigating the Israelis, [the STL] gathered information from them. Imagine that Israel – instead of being under investigation – has become a source of information and [the tribunal] is cooperating with it.”
Nasrallah dismissed the tribunal as “politicized,” and said the arrest warrants issued against the Hezbollah operatives “are a step in a long journey whose course is becoming clearer, following Israel’s defeat and the victory of the resistance in the [Second Lebanon] war.”
The 2005 assassination of Hariri, seen as a Sunni leader, plunged Lebanon into a series of crises which included killings, brief internal fighting and a 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
The main question is whether Lebanon is going to hand over the suspects for trial.
Hezbollah, which is both a political party and a heavily armed group, is highly secretive about its military wing, making the mission of security forces to find the suspects – let alone arresting them – almost impossible.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Jamal Wakim of Lebanese International University defended Nasrallah’s comments.
“It would be in the interest of Israel to implicate Hezbollah in such an act so that it’s viewed not as a resistance moment but a terrorist movement involved in acts not only against Israelis, but Lebanese,” he said. “That would mean it is a Shia movement that killed a Sunni leader…in order to engender civil strife that could lead to a civil war.”
HEZBOLLAH’S NASRALLAH: HARIRI TRIBUNAL DOMINATED BY U.S., ISRAEL
Hassan Nasrallah calls Hezbollah members indicted in killing of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri as ‘brothers’ with an ‘honorable history’; says authorities won’t be able to arrest them.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that authorities would never be able to arrest four members of his militant group who have been indicted in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
In a televised address, Nasrallah said that “even in 300 years” the men will not be turned in. The Shiite militant group has denied any role in the killing.
Nasrallah’s speech marked his first comments since the indictment was announced on Thursday. A high-ranking Hezbollah militant and three others were accused in the 2005 assassination of Hariri.
Narallah insisted that the UN-backed tribunal investigating the Hariri assassination was dominated by America and Israel and called its decision “an aggression against us and our holy warriors.”
Nasrallah said the suspects named in the indictment were brothers “who have an honorable history in resisting Israeli occupation.”
“I tell our followers not to be worried, the tribunal is part of the war against us, because we are leading a confrontation against Israel…” Nasrallah said.
The suggestion that the group was involved in the assassination threatens to plunge Lebanon into a new and violent crisis as the case has further polarized Lebanon’s rival factions.
Nasrallah said on Saturday that the tribunal aimed to create strife in Lebanon but that the country would not descend into conflict.
“The most dangerous goal of this tribunal is to create strife, a civil war in Lebanon, or especially a division between the Sunni and Shiite in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.