The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, probing the assassination of five-time former Lebanese Prime Minister "Rafik Hariri" , opened its long-awaited trial in The Hague Thursday as the prosecution delivers its opening statements.
Judge David Re, the president of the trial chamber, began by reading out the names of the suspects and the charges against them after the defense and the lawyer of the victims introduced themselves.
The court indicted in 2011 four members of Hezbollah - Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra and Hussein Oneissi – for involvement in the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination. The four are being tried in absentia after efforts failed to apprehend them. A fifth Hezbollah suspect, Hassan Merhi, was accused last year of complicity in the killing. The STL has not yet decided whether to try the fifth man along with the others.
A model of downtown Beirut, where the deadly explosion that killed Hariri and 21 others took place, was prominently displayed at the center of the courtroom.
In his opening statements, Prosecutor "Norman Farrell" described the assassination as an "attack that captured the attention of the world", adding "the people of Lebanon have the right to seek the truth".
The prosecutor opened the trial with images of the devastation in Downtown Beirut following the attack including images of the remains of Hariri's convoy.
He then told stories of victims who were killed in the attack, including Yahya al Arab, who was in Hariri's convoy, and who could only be identified by his partial remains.
The attack was carried out in a street full of people, the prosecutor said, and the victims were "a student, hotel worker, cousin, father, a brother, a daughter, friends".
Farrell voiced confidence in the prosecution’s evidence and said it would prove the guilt of the suspects beyond reasonable doubt.
He said the telecommunications evidence shows a complex and sophisticated surveillance plan of the former prime minister, which was not innocent or coincidental. He added that the suspects took steps to conceal their identities and to create a false trail to mislead investigators.
A delegation of the victims and their families is attending the court’s opening whose hopes hang on the outcome of the trial. Among them is former Prime Minister "Saad Hariri" , Rafik’s son, who is present along with MPs Sami Gemayel and Marwan Hamade.
Speaking to the families of victims in the blast, Hariri called Wednesday the start of trial proceedings "historic" , stressing that "the start of the trial is a historic day that opens a new page for justice in Lebanon".