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STL confirms indictment accusing Merhi of involvement in February 14 Beirut attack.

Leidschendam, 21 October 2013 - The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has announced the confirmation of an indictment accusing Hassan Habib Merhi of involvement in the 14 February 2005 Beirut attack for which four other accused are to be tried in absentia; that trial has a tentative start date (13 January 2014).

President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Judge Baragwanath, made such announcement and gave the following statement: The Lebanese authorities have so far been unable to locate Mr Merhi. I have therefore ordered the service of the indictment in alternative modes, which include public advertisement. If, following such procedures, Mr Merhi has not been brought under the Tribunal's authority, the Trial Chamber will be asked to decide whether to initiate proceedings against him in absentia.

For citizens of Lebanon, trial in absentia is a familiar alternative to trial in the presence of the accused. Its justification is two-fold. First because it is fair: our Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence ensure that counsel is appointed to protect the interests of the accused in absentia. Moreover, a person who has been convicted in absentia but then appears before the Tribunal is entitled to a retrial. Secondly, trial in absentia is a valid alternative because it enables the victims and the community to learn the nature of the case presented in the courtroom, and allows victims the opportunity to actively participate in proceedings.

Trial in absentia is however a second-best, because of the absence of the accused. From the standpoint of the accused its disadvantage is that Defence counsel and the Tribunal both lack the information in support of his defense that only the accused can provide.

So I address both Mr. Merhi and also the people of Lebanon. As to Mr. Merhi, I invite you to consider whether you are prepared to face the Special Tribunal with the help both of the Defense Office headed by MaA'tre FranA'ois Roux and of the counsel he would assist you to obtain if that is your wish.

As to the people of Lebanon, we seek your help and support in properly performing our tasks.

The Tribunal is charged with the investigation, prosecution, defense and trial of persons accused of crimes within its jurisdiction. This is what the United Nations, of which Lebanon is a proud founding member, decided, after a request in this sense came from Lebanon. This is why the UN Secretary-General has appointed each of our judges to perform the adjudication.

Each judge regards our obligation of fairness as absolute. That is why an earlier tentative date was not met; the disclosure of evidence to which the Defense is entitled was then incomplete and the Pre-Trial Judge deemed it necessary to grant more time.

I repeat what I have previously said publicly: the politics of Lebanon are for the Lebanese people and are none of our business. Our responsibility is confined to two areas. As to the first, our judicial mandate can be summarized as follows: what facts does the criminal law of Lebanon require to be proved by the Prosecutor in relation to the charges contained in the indictment? The Judges will focus on whether those facts are proved by due process, on admissible evidence, beyond reasonable doubt.

If so, the accused will be convicted; if the answer to any part of this the latter question is no, then he will be acquitted.

Our second area of responsibility is contributing to the efforts of the Lebanese Government, its Judiciary, and its people to restore in full the operation of the rule of law in Lebanon.

International justice must be pursued to completion. Various attempts to obstruct it have failed. All of our judges, in each of whom I have complete confidence, remain determined to carry out our responsibilities.



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Publication:National News Agency Lebanon (NNA)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Oct 21, 2013
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