Lebanese Druze leader to decide Hariri's political fate
Draft indictment in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri is expected to charge senior figures in Hezbollah over the assasination.
A draft indictment by the international tribunal in The Hague that has been investigating the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will go to a judge for review on Monday. Several senior figures in Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement are expected to be charged.
This was announced on Sunday by Lebanese Labor Minister Boutros Harb following a meeting with the president, Michel Suleiman. The prosecutor for the special tribunal, Daniel Bellemare, will deliver the draft charge sheet to Judge Daniel Francine, who is expected to consider the document for six to 10 weeks before deciding on possible legal proceedings.
The delivery of the draft indictment is expected to be highly damaging to Hezbollah in the eyes of the Lebanese public, but it is not clear what steps the organization will take. Precisely how the international tribunal will proceed is also not clear. It is not certain, for example, whether the full text of the draft indictments will be released.
The several Hezbollah figures expected to be charged with murder include Mustafa Badr al-Din, the brother-in-law of the head of Hezbollah's military wing, and Imad Mughniyeh, who was himself assassinated in Damascus about three years ago.
An indictment would be a major development, which Hezbollah has been trying to head off in any way possible.
The organization has put Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain Rafik Hariri, under tremendous pressure to disassociate himself from the tribunal and stop Lebanon's contribution to its funding even before indictments are issued.
Hezbollah withdrew its support for the Lebanese government last week, resulting in the government's collapse. Saad Hariri is now caretaker prime minister.
In a surprise report on Sunday, the Lebanese daily Al Nahar cited an item from November on the conservative American Newsmax website, which said Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would ultimately be accused by the international court of ordering Rafik Hariri's murder.
It said evidence would be introduced showing that the murder was carried out by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in cooperation with Hezbollah.
Newsmax said Syrian President Bashar Assad and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, who was head of Syrian intelligence, were also involved.
Hariri arrived back in Lebanon Friday after meetings in Washington and Paris. He returned home despite concerns for his safety and the view of some Western sources that he would not return to Lebanon at this point.
On returning to Lebanon, Hariri went immediately to meet with a key powerbroker, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Al Nahar reported that Hariri told Jumblatt that "they have a gun pointed at my head and they want me to surrender."
The daily said Hariri still seeks an agreement with the opposition headed by Hezbollah, but the gaps are large. The sources said Hariri accused Hezbollah of failing to honor past agreements.
Jumblatt's parliamentary faction will apparently decide Hariri's political future. If the 11 members support Hariri, he will be able to retain his job as prime minister. If they support Hezbollah, it is expected that a Sunni politician tied to Syria will be appointed premier.
The Lebanese constitution requires the prime minister to be a Sunni Muslim. Jumblatt is one of Lebanon's most veteran politicians. He has often shifted his support on the political spectrum.
After Rafik Hariri's assassination, Jumblatt allied with Saad. Jumblatt became a leader of the so-called Cedar Revolution, took an anti-Syrian stance and criticized Syrian's interference in Lebanon.
Since the last Lebanese elections, however, he has reconciled with Syria and become a major supporter of the country.
Israeli intelligence officials say all the sides seek to avoid violence and arise as a compromise over the crisis.