Posted by: Lister | April 30, 2009

Lebanon releases Hariri suspects

The BBC:

Four Lebanese generals held since 2005 over the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri have been freed.

Their release comes hours after a UN court ruled there was not enough evidence to hold them.

[…] The UN special tribunal, which started its operations only last month, now has no suspects in detention and the chief prosecutor has yet to name any new ones.

But our analyst reports that sources close to the tribunal say it is making substantial progress.

The DailyStar adds this to the report of the above releases:

Mohammad Zuhair Siddiq, supposedly a former Syrian intelligence agent, was arrested in a Paris suburb in October 2005 under an international arrest warrant requested by a Lebanese prosecutor. He was placed under house arrest after the French authorities refused a request to extradite him to Lebanon, saying it had failed to receive guarantees that Siddiq would not face the death penalty if convicted. Siddiq disappeared in March 2008, prompting accusations by his brother that France had “liquidated” him.

In 2006, Siddiq alleged Syrian President Bashar Assad and his then-Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud had ordered Hariri’s murder. The UN tribunal charged with prosecuting Hariri’s killers initially considered Siddiq a key witness in their investigation, but made him a suspect after his testimonies were discredited.

Siddiq was reported arrested in Dubai recently. But nothing seems to have come of it:

A key suspect in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has been arrested in the United Arab Emirates after more than a year on the run from international authorities, a diplomat has claimed. Mohammad Zuhair Siddiq, a former Syrian intelligence agent, was named as a suspect in the murder by the UN team tasked with piecing together the circumstances surrounding Hariri’s death.

Siddiq was initially considered a key witness in the investigation, but quickly came under suspicion when the validity of evidence that he gave the tribunal was called into question.

[…] an Arab diplomat in Dubai, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Siddiq has been arrested in the UAE and that Syria had requested his extradition.

Authorities in the UAE have refused to confirm the diplomat’s claim, or even to indicate whether Siddiq was resident in the country, but Syrian media reports say that Damascus is seeking to charge him with giving the investigators false information that implicated Syria in Hariri’s killing.

Lots of news agencies are saying there is no official confirmation, but I haven’t found an outright denial. Naharnet says the UAE may be deciding which country to send him too — both Lebanon and Syria have warrants for his arrest.

On Thursday, the Lebanese daily As Safir said Siddiq, who was carrying a fake passport when detained, was handed over to Abu Dhabi authorities over fears he posed a threat to national security.

Asked whether the UAE was required to notify Lebanon of the arrest, Najjar said: “It depends, first, on the laws of the country and the possibility of a clash with other legal systems in since there is more than one arrest warrant against (Siddiq).” Syria has also issued an arrest warrant against Siddiq.

“Second, the UAE is a sovereign country and has the right to decide which (side) to notify. This is why I cannot comment further on the case,” he added.

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