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UN's Hariri assassination tribunal for Lebanon suspended over funding

A further trial for Salim Jamil Ayyash's alleged involvement in attacks on Lebanese politicians was supposed to begin this month.

A UN tribunal has suspended a court case related to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri due to a lack of funding.

The UN’s Special Tribunal Lebanon at The Hague said on Tuesday that it has suspended the trial of Salim Jamil Ayyash. Pre-trial hearings were set to begin on June 10, but the tribunal only has funding to conduct proceedings until the end of July. The pre-trial hearings are canceled and future filings are suspended, though the tribunal will reassess if funding becomes available, according to a document signed by three judges.

Hariri and 21 others were killed by a car bombing in Beirut in 2005. Hariri was a prominent Sunni Muslim politician in the country who was an ally of Saudi Arabia and critic of Syria’s past occupation of Lebanon. His son Saad Hariri is currently prime minister-designate of Lebanon and served as prime minister himself most recently from 2016 to 2020.

The tribunal sentenced Salim Jamil Ayyash to five life sentences in December over the Hariri assassination. Ayyash was tried en absentia and remains at large. The tribunal determined that he was affiliated with the Lebanese Shiite Muslim organization Hezbollah, which is an ally of Iran and Syria.

The news did not spell the end of the tribunal’s work. Ayyash is also on trial for the murder and attempted murder of other Lebanese politicians in 2004 and 2005, and this is the trial that is now suspended. The trial’s scope includes the 2005 car bombing that killed George Hawi, who was also a prominent critic of the Syrian government. The tribunal determined that these incidents were connected to the Hariri murder.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said on Thursday that it is continuing fundraising efforts and called on the international community to donate. Voluntary contributions from donor countries account for 51% of its budget, while Lebanon provides the other 49%.

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