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Lebanon tribunal indicts Hariri suspect in additional attacks

A Hezbollah suspect accused of leading the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has been charged over three other attacks
Monday's indictment is the first new case opened by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon since its creation in 2007 (AFP)

 A tribunal on Monday indicted Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash, accused of assassinating Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri over attacks on three Lebanese politicians.

A pre-trial judge charged Ayyash, whose whereabouts are unknown, with terrorism and murder over attacks in 2004 and 2005, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) said.

Ayyash, who prosecutors say is a Hezbollah commander, is accused of the attempted assassinations of Druze MP and former minister Marwan Hamadeh in 2004, and former defence minister Elias Murr in 2005.

He is also accused of the 2005 killing of George Hawi, former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party and a vocal critic of the Syrian government.

Ayyash, 55, is also one of four prime suspects in Hariri’s assassination in a powerful bomb attack that shook Beirut’s waterfront in 2005. The other suspects are known Hezbollah members Assad Sabra, Hussein Oneissi, and Hassan Habib Merhi.

The UN-backed court, established in 2007, is trying the four defendants in absentia over the attack that also killed 21 others and wounded 226.

Prosecutors believe that Ayyash led the team that carried out the attack against Hariri.

Hariri is believed to be have been murdered due to his strong opposition to the Syrian government’s control over Lebanon.

Judge Daniel Fransen "lifted today the confidentiality of his decision confirming an indictment against Mr Salim Jamil Ayyash relating to the attacks," the tribunal said, according to AFP news agency.

"The confirmation of this indictment marks the opening of a new case before the STL,” since its creation in 2007.

Hezbollah as a group has not been indicted for Hariri’s assassination. The four defendants are being tried as individuals.

The alleged mastermind, Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, was indicted by the court but is now believed to have died while leading the group’s fighting with the Syrian government in May 2016.