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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The hearing delivering verdicts in the trial of four members of the Hezbollah militant group over the 2005 killing of Rafik Hariri has begun.
Lebanon has waited 15 years for some kind of justice following Mr Hariri’s slaying, though the trial itself began in 2014.
The tribunal in Leidschendam, near The Hague, has heard from 297 witnesses, and spanned 415 days of hearings.
As the hearing, which was expected to last a number of hours, began Judge David Re, the presiding judge, gave a summary of the truck bomb attack that killed Mr Hariri.
Several family members were in attendance at the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon, including Rafik Al Hariri's son Saad.
The trial over the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister has centred on four men charged with conspiracy to carry out the suicide bombing.
Twenty-one people were killed alongside Mr Hariri and 220 injured after an explosion tore through the politician’s armour-plated car on Beirut’s corniche.
The four men, Salim Jalil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra, are all suspected of being members of the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah.
They have been tried in absentia after the powerful Shia organisation vowed never to hand them over.
A fifth suspect, Mustafa Amine Badreddinne, described as a key figure in the plot and a veteran Hezbollah member with close ties to the group’s leadership, was killed in Syria in 2016.
The attack on Mr Hariri, Lebanon’s preeminent Sunni politician, sent shockwaves through Lebanese society.
Anger, as more than a million protesters took to the streets, was focused on Hezbollah and its ally Syria.
Syrian troops had maintained a strong presence in Lebanon for three decades, a legacy of the country’s bitter civil war.
Months before his death, Mr Hariri had ended his premiership over Syria’s continued influence on Lebanon.
He had clashed with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad over the prolonged intervention.
The outpouring of public outrage over Mr Hariri’s death forced the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon.
Justice in the courts over the assassination, however, has been limited. If they are convicted, hearings will be held at a later date to determine their sentences. As the UN-backed court has no death sentence, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
None of the men is ever likely to serve time because they remain in hiding. Prosecutors and defence lawyers can appeal the verdicts.
Updated: August 18, 2020 01:38 PM
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