Appeals judges at an international tribunal sentenced two members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah to life imprisonment Thursday for their roles in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the deaths of 21 other people in a massive bombing in Beirut in 2005.
Neither of the convicted men, Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi, has been arrested and sent to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in the Netherlands. They were tried in their absence and remain at large.
Merhi and Oneissi were convicted on appeal in March of five crimes, including being accomplices to the intentional homicide of Hariri and the 21 others. They all were killed when plotters detonated a huge truck bomb on the Beirut seafront as Hariri’s motorcade drove past on Feb. 14, 2005.
The blast wounded another 226 people.
During a hearing Thursday, the tribunal’s president, Czech judge Ivana Hrdličková, said Merhi and Oneissi were receiving life sentences for each of their five convictions. If they are ever captured and imprisoned, the sentences would be served concurrently.
Prosecutors appealed after the two men were acquitted nearly two years ago following a lengthy trial that found another Hezbollah member, Salim Ayyash, guilty of involvement in the blast. Ayyash, who also was tried in absentia, received a life prison sentence.
The STL was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution. It is funded by voluntary contributions and by the Lebanese government.
Thursday’s ruling concludes the court’s main case.
It is expected that the court, which has been plagued by a funding crisis in the past years, will close down with only minimal staffing to handle residual issues.