UN report claims Syria warned Hariri

THE UN REPORT into the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri cites testimony that claims Syria’s president Assad threatened Hariri, if he did not comply with Syria’s political aims.

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By  Massoud A. Derhally Published  April 3, 2005

THE UN REPORT into the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri cites testimony that claims Syria’s president Assad threatened Hariri, if he did not comply with Syria’s political aims. The investigation team, led by deputy Irish police commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, stops short of blaming any individual or group for his death. However, it is now calling for an independent international investigation to be carried out. The 21-page report, seen by Arabian Business, cited testimony from various individuals of the last 10-minute conversation Hariri had with Syrian president Bashar Al Assad in which Assad is said to have threatened Hariri and Walid Jumblatt if they did not comply with extending the term of Lebanese president Emile Lahoud by amending the constitution. According to these testimonies: “Mr. Hariri reminded Mr. Assad of his pledge not to seek an extension for Mr. Lahoud’s term, and Mr. Assad replied that there was a policy shift and that the decision was already taken. [Assad] added that Mr. Lahoud should be viewed as his personal representative in Lebanon and that ‘opposing him is tantamount to opposing Assad himself’. “He then added that he [Assad] ‘would rather break Lebanon over the heads of Hariri and [Druze leader Walid] Jumblatt than see his word in Lebanon broken’. According to the testimonies, Mr. Assad then threatened both Mr. Hariri and Mr. Jumblatt with physical harm if they opposed the extension for Mr. Lahoud … After that meeting, Mr. Hariri told his supporters that they had no other option but to support the extension for Mr. Lahoud. The Mission has also received accounts of further threats made to Mr. Hariri by security officials in case he abstained from voting in favour of the extension or ‘even thought of leaving the country’.” The findings of the mission are equally damning when it comes to the actual investigation into Hariri’s assassination, bringing to light negligence on behalf of the Lebanese Security apparatus in the wake of the killing and afterwards. The report maintains various individuals and bodies compromised the investigation process directly and indirectly during and in the immediate aftermath of the Hariri’s killing on February 14. “The Lebanese investigation process suffers from serious flaws and has neither the capacity nor the commitment to reach a satisfactory and credible conclusion,” said the report. It went on to say “it is the view of the Mission that the Lebanese security apparatus failed to provide proper protection for Mr. Hariri and therefore provided a convenient context for his assassination.” Tampering at the crime scene in the wake of the assassination and preservation of evidence have compromised the investigation, according to the report. The presiding Military Court Judge Rasheed Mezhar and the Chief of the Criminal Court Judge Michel Abu Araj who replaced Mezhar failed to carry out the most fundamental tasks associated with routine investigative procedures. The report indicates dubious activity on the part individuals that fall under the jurisdiction and command of the aforementioned judges. “On the 14th of February shortly before midnight, the six vehicles forming Mr. Hariri’s convoy and one BMW (not connected with the convoy) were removed from the scene of the explosion and were taken to the Helou Police Barracks in the city of Beirut. Although the vehicles were covered after they had been removed, they were still now absent from their respective resting places on the site of the explosion, thereby preventing any ballistic analysis, explosive analysis and evidence gathering at the scene,” according to the report. It adds: “The seat of the explosion (the resulting crater) was flooded with water in the days following the explosion after the local authorities/Police failed to prevent water from being turned on and released into the crater through the fractured pipes at the scene, thereby damaging or even eliminating vital evidence. “Parts of a pickup truck were brought to the scene by members of the security services, some time after the incident, and were placed in the crater and were subsequently photographed and labelled as evidence.” The assassination could not have been carried out by a single individual, according to the report. It “would have required access to considerable finance, military precision in its execution, substantial logistical support and would have been beyond the capacity of any single individual or small terrorist group.” Syrian officials described the report as “full of rhetoric,” while Lebanese officials said it was “alien to reality.”

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