| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

UN-backed court: Hezbollah fugitive can’t appeal over Hariri murder

A UN-backed court said on Tuesday that the fugitive Hezbollah suspect convicted of the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafic Hariri cannot appeal against the verdict until he turns himself .

Salim Ayyash was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment last year by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Netherlands over the killing of Hariri in a suicide bombing in Beirut in 2005.

The 57-year-old Ayyash remains on the run, with Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Shiite Hezbollah movement, refusing to hand him over or to recognize the court’s authority.

Ayyash’s defense team appealed against the decision in January but the court said on Tuesday that under its rules that he was not allowed to do so while still a fugitive from justice.

“The legal framework for in absentia proceedings at the STL does not contemplate a defense appeal in absentia,” the court said in a statement on the decision by a majority of the court’s judges.

“Counsel for Ayyash have not been appointed nor accepted by Ayyash, who absconded and has not been found. An arrest warrant against Ayyash is outstanding.”

The court added that Ayyash under international law retained “the right to appeal the judgments if he appears, or request a retrial”.

Prosecutors have appealed against the acquittal of three other suspects — also in absentia.

Sunni billionaire politician Hariri was among 22 people killed in a huge truck bombing that also injured 226 others.

Ayyash also faces a separate case at the tribunal for three attacks on politicians in Lebanon that is due to open in June.

The United States in March offered a reward of $10 million to find Ayyash. The State Department said it would offer the reward for “information leading to the location or identification” of Ayyash or “information leading to preventing him from engaging in an act of international terrorism against a US person or US property.”

  • alarabiya