Syria destroyed documents in Hariri probe
- From: "Fred" <fdrt@xxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 16:26:26 +0100
Syria destroyed documents in Hariri probe
With hat in hand on the eve of his departure, a German prosecutor on Monday
delivered more evidence of Syria's role in slaying a Lebanese political
figure and charged that some documentation had been burned and destroyed in
The report from Detlev Mehlis on the lethal car bombing of former Lebanese
prime minister Rafik Hariri in February came just hours after another bomb
killed Gibran Tueni, a vanguard Lebanese Christian MP on the forefront of
the "Cedar Revolution", and three others.
Mehlis, in his final report to the United Nations Security Council, charges
that Syria still has not cooperated fully with the UN investigation. The
council has threatened sanctions if Syria does not comply.
Hariri's assassination has already swept strong political change into the
region. Outraged Lebanese protesters took to the streets in the "Cedar
Revolution", demanding that Syria's occupying forces end their three-decade
occupation of their country. Syria finally complied with long-standing UN
Security Council demands and withdrew, and elections brought anti-Syrian
parties to power in the government.
The probe by Mehlis, on leave from his job as one of Germany's top
anti-terrorist prosecutors, has run parallel to the political events.
The new report, which follows an initial report released in October, further
substantiates earlier findings, adding thousands of new pages of evidence.
Mehlis says 19 Lebanese and Syrians have now been identified as suspects,
apparently including five of six Syrian officials questioned in Vienna,
Austria, last week by UN investigators.
"There is reason to believe that these  individuals may have been
involved in some way in the planning or execution of this crime or engaged
in deliberate attempts to mislead the investigation as to its perpetrators,"
The report does not name the 19 suspects, but gives names of witnesses. Of
the 19, Mehlis says the Lebanese government has arrested four, who have not
been re-interviewed by the UN commission.
Mehlis calls for the probe to be extended another six months after his
departure. It was clear from the beginning that he could only serve until
The burning of Syrian intelligence documents related to Lebanon was reported
by two Syrian officials interviewed by Mehlis's commission. Syrian Judge
Ghada Murad testified on December 8 that "no material regarding the
assassination of Mr. Hariri had been found in Syrian intelligence archives".
Mehlis's report urges Syria to be "more forthcoming" and provide "full and
unconditional cooperation" with the investigation.
The investigation uncovered more specific information since October about
how Syrian security services controlled and manipulated the situation in
Mehlis says a high-level Syrian official, immediately after the Hariri
murder, supplied arms and ammunition to groups and individuals in Lebanon to
help "create public disorder" as a counterattack to accusations against
Since October, UN-appointed investigators interviewed 52 new witnesses and
obtained 37 000 new pages of documents on the case.
The UN commission had already interviewed more than 500 people and obtained
tens of thousands of pages of documents and telephone conversations between
Lebanese and Syrian officials and private individuals.
In other findings:
* The role of Sheikh Ahmed Abdel-al, a member of a pro-Syrian Lebanese
Sunni fundamentalist group, and his associates remains critical to
investigators, Mehlis says. There appears to be a link between the group,
Al-Ahbash, and a number of "key suspects", based on telephone conversations.
* Mehlis sheds more light on the controversial "masked" witness Hussam
Taher Hussam who had provided some of the original links between Syrian and
Lebanese intelligence in the assassination. Last week, Hussam recanted,
claiming he had been tortured and bribed by the Lebanese government to
testify against Syria. But Mehlis says new information shows that the
Syrians were the ones who used force to make Hussam change his song, by
arresting and threatening some of Hussam's close relatives before he
* Mehlis charges Syrian authorities with manipulating Hussam, "raising
serious questions about whether the Syrian judicial commission is committed
to conducting an independent, transparent and professional investigation
into this crime".
* Mehlis says his commission has obtained more evidence that Lebanese
and Syrian security services "controlled" Lebanese society through Lebanese
agencies such as Military Intelligence, the Internal Security Force and
national police forces.
* According to testimony from a new witness interviewed in late
October, special agents were recruited by Lebanese and Syrian intelligence
services to handle explosive devices, carry out threats against "targeted
individuals" and plan other criminal activities, Mehlis says.
* The report establishes that Hariri had been under constant
surveillance by those agencies before he was killed.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he is in the process of picking a
successor to Mehlis to ensure that the investigation continues. Last week,
Security Council members indicated they will extend the probe another six
months at Lebanon's behest. --
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