LEIDSCHENDAM, The Netherlands — Prosecutors on Monday appealed the acquittal by a United Nations-backed court of two suspected Hezbollah members over the 2005 murder of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The prosecutors said judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon made “fundamental” errors by not considering circumstantial evidence when they cleared Hussein Oneissi and Hassan Habib Merhi.
The Netherlands-based court in August 2020 convicted Salim Ayyash, a member of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, for a bomb blast that killed Hariri and 21 others.
But judges said there was a lack of evidence to convict the three other defendants — Oneissi, Merhi, and a fourth man, Assad Sabra. Prosecutors are seeking to overturn only the acquittals of the first two.
“The prosecution feels compelled to appeal because of the errors outlined in our brief, which are fundamental to the determination of guilt or innocence,” tribunal prosecutor Norman Farrell told the court.
“And lastly, we should not forget that this tribunal has convicted Salim Ayyash and he is at large, and he is a fugitive and he should be brought to justice,” added Farrell.
All four men were tried in absentia over the February 2005 attack, when a suicide bomber detonated a van full of explosives as Hariri’s armored convoy passed on the Beirut waterfront.
The case against all four men relied almost exclusively on circumstantial evidence in the form of mobile phone records that prosecutors said showed a Hezbollah cell plotting the attack.
Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, refused to hand over any of the suspects or to recognize the UN-backed court, which has issued an international warrant for the arrest of Ayyash.
The court said in April that Ayyash cannot appeal the verdict until he turns himself in.
The Lebanon tribunal is expected to close after the appeals phase because of a cash shortage, with a further case against Ayyash over attacks on several politicians likely to go unheard.
The prosecutors said judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon made “fundamental” errors by not considering circumstantial evidence...