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Middle east

Lebanese media quiet on Der Spiegel claims

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2010-02-23

A German report claiming Hezbollah was behind the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri should have sent shock waves across Lebanon. Instead the allegations were carefully ignored, even by media outlets belonging to the Hariri family.

A report published by German weekly “Der Spiegel”, which linked Hezbollah to the slaying of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has stunned Lebanon. The Shi'ite party called the report “pure fabrication” and a ploy to destabilize the election campaign two weeks before the country goes to the polls on June 7.

The Lebanese prime minister was killed in a car bomb attack on February 14, 2005. At the time, Hariri supporters and his relatives immediately accused Syria of being behind the attack.


A deafening silence

The detailed article based on information from sources close to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and backed by “internal documents”, should have come as a bombshell in Lebanon. However, the Hariri camp reacted with deafening silence and prudence. Not even Hariri group media, including al-Moustaqbal and Future TV, mentioned the German magazine’s allegations.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has always accused Syria of being responsible for the assassination, was the only one to react on Sunday, during a political meeting with his ally Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son. Jumblatt called on his fellow citizens to beware of “rumours and press leaks, because they can harm judicial procedures and provoke discord and sedition”.


Syria and Hezbollah under the spotlight

French Middle-East expert Frederic Encel says the Spiegel allegations are plausible.

“Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, rivaled Hezbollah on a social and political level. His supporters, who pose as champions of international law, don’t want to appear to be using the court for their own political ends,” he said in a FRANCE 24 interview. “That’s why they are silent.”

“I think the Hariri clan believes both the Hezbollah and Syria, which used to work hand in hand during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, were involved in the assassination. And both Syria and the Hezbollah strongly opposed the creation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” said Encel.

Asked about the Spiegel allegations, Daniel Bellemare, the Canadian prosecutor who leads the UN investigation into Hariri’s death, said he “would not comment on questions related to technical aspects of the inquest”.

Date created : 2009-05-25

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