A judge for the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has ordered the release of four generals who had been held on suspicion of their involvement in the February 2005 suicide bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. The court’s pre-trial decision came after prosecutor Daniel Bellemare announced Monday that he was declining to seek a continuation of the generals’ nearly four-year detention because of a lack of evidence and due to the legal principle of presumed innocence. The generals’ release was celebrated with cheers and fireworks throughout Beirut.
Earlier this month, STL pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen ordered Bellemare to submit either a reasoned request for the continued detention of the four generals or a declination thereof. A Lebanese judge ordered the transfer of documents relating to Hariri’s assassination to the STL early this month, thereby granting sole jurisdiction over the case against the four accused generals to the tribunal. In March 2008, Bellemare said he believed a criminal network was behind the assassination. The investigation into the assassination has been extended past its original anticipated end date and expanded to cover other assassinations in the country. Several reports from the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), also headed by Bellemare, have implicated Syrian officials in Hariri’s death. (Jurist, April 29)
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