Gulf News, among others, reports:
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probing the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri on Thursday issued its long-awaited indictment and accused four Hezbollah members of the murder,
The Tribunal reportedly has given Lebanon thirty days within which to respond. Meanwhile, "[a] delegation from the tribunal reportedly is on its way to Syria, to hand over inidictments of Syrian officials."
Hariri, along with twenty-one others, was murdered on February 14, 2005, when explosives blew up his motorcade in Beirut.
In its 2005 obituary for Rafik Hariri, the BBC reported:
Unlike many key figures in Levantine politics, Hariri did not come from a political family or powerful clan. Rather, he was born in 1944 to a poor Sunni Muslim family in the southern port of Sidon. After training as a teacher, he went abroad to seek his fortune, following a path well-trodden by many of his countrymen. He found employment in a construction firm in Saudi Arabia, eventually establishing his own firm, Saudi Oger. He became the personal contractor for Prince Fahd, who went on to become king of Saudi Arabia, and amassed a fortune that propelled him into the US magazine Forbes as one of the richest 100 men in the world.
The Guardian notes that the indictments had been "keenly anticipated for two years."
News of the warrants drew applause from the recently ousted government in Beirut, known as the 14 March alliance, but silence from Hezbollah and its allies
According to a German Press Agency report published by Haaretz:
Former Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri, lauded the indictments handed to Hezbollah officials by the UN-backed tribunal probing Hariri's 2005 assassination, calling it a "historic moment." The handover of the indictments to Lebanese prosecutor general Saeed Mirza was made during a meeting with three judges from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has given Lebanon 30 days to respond.
The Guardian reports that the four accused "are believed to be Hezbollah's current chief operations officer, Moustafa Badreddine, another senior official, Salim Ayyash, and two lower-profile members of the group, Assad Sabra and Hassan Aneiyssi. . . . Badreddine is one of Hezbollah's founding members and a former close confidant of the group's feared military commander, Imad Mughniyeh[.]"
The issuing of the warrants has placed enormous pressure on the new prime minister, Najib Miqati, whose Hezbollah-dominated cabinet has demanded he disavow the tribunal and cut Lebanon's share of funding for it. Just as vehement is the opposition's insistence that he continue to comply with the court.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon operates under UN Security Council Resolution, 1757. As explained by Gulf News:
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is to prosecute persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons. The Tribunal's jurisdiction could be extended beyond February 14, 2005
The applicable law for the Special Tribunal is the Lebanese Criminal Code relating to the prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism and crimes and offences against life and personal integrity, among others with the exclusion of penalties such as the death penalty and forced labour, which are otherwise applicable under Lebanese law.
The Special Tribunal has the power to impose penalties up to and including life imprisonment. Sentences will be served in a State designated by the President of the Special Tribunal from a list of willing states.