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Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest the murderer of Rafik Hariri in Beirut

Image credits: A general view shows the site where former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a massive explosion in Beirut on February 14, 2005. AFP

Gunfire broke out in south Beirut on Tuesday night when Hezbollah fought off an apparent attempt by Lebanese security forces to arrest the man convicted of assassinating former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The Levant News newsdesk
Information circulating on social media said officers tried to raid a house thought to be the hideout of Salim Ayyash, 57, who is wanted by the Lebanese state at the request of the International Tribunal for Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters opened fire, surrounded the security patrol, and detained its members and their vehicles.

Amateur video footage on social media shows shots being fired and a Hezbollah fighter shouting: “Attack them and disarm them.” An activist close to Hezbollah added: “The security patrol wanted to arrest wanted suspects accused of a crime, it is not true that there was a clash with Hezbollah."

Rafik Hariri died in a suicide bombing of his car in Beirut in February 2005. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon pre-trial judge (STL) tried Ayyash in his absence, and sentenced him to life imprisonment in August 2020 for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Hezbollah has said it will never hand him over.

Last week the Pre-Trial Judge of STL issued a scheduling order yesterday setting 16 June 2021 as a tentative date for the start of another trial against Ayyash. The so-called new Ayyash case relates to the three attacks against Marwan Hamade on 4 October 2004, Georges Hawi on 21 June 2005 and Mr Elias El-Murr on 12 July 2005. They were found to be connected with the 14 February 2005 attack, which killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and many others. The case is currently in the Pre-Trial phase.

The Pre-Trial Judge’s confirmation of indictment against the Accused Salim Jamil Ayyash marked the opening of a new case before the STL. Ayyash is charged with five counts:

Conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act; In the alternative to conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act, criminal association; Committing terrorist acts; Intentional homicide with premeditation of Messrs Ghazi Abou-Karroum, Georges Hawi and Khaled Moura and Attempted intentional homicide with premeditation of Messrs Elias El-Murr, Marwan Hamade and 17 other persons.

Proceedings against the Accused Salim Jamil Ayyash in the Ayyash case continue in absentia. To date, five status conferences have been held to review the status of the case and ensure the parties are ready for trial. The first status conference took place on 22 July 2020. The Pre-Trial Judge shall convene other conferences, during the pre-trial proceedings, until the case is ready for trial.

For the latest information on the trial check-out the STL website.

With agencies

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Arthur Blok
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