Assad Describes STL as 'Politicized, Considers it a Tool to 'Pressure Hizbullah'
Syrian President Bashar Assad described the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as “politicized,” saying that it's only a tool to pressure Hizbullah.
"Nine years have passed since the beginning of this trial. Has justice been served? Every accusation was made for political reasons," he said on Sunday in an exclusive interview with Agence France Presse, days after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon began hearing evidence in the 2005 killing of Rafik Hariri.
"We have not seen any tangible proof put forward against the parties involved in the case," added Assad, whose regime came under suspicion in the killing, along with Hizbullah.
"The real question should be: why the timing? Why now? This court was set up nine years ago," he added.
"I believe that the whole thing is politicized and is intended to put pressure Hizbullah in Lebanon in the same way that it aimed at putting pressure on Syria in the beginning, immediately after Hariri's assassination," he said.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has accused five Hizbullah members of involvement in the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri.
The party has dismissed the court as a U.S.-Israeli scheme and vowed to never cooperate with it.
The STL opened last week in a suburb outside The Hague nine years after the huge Beirut blast that killed Hariri.
The STL is unique in international justice as it was set up to try the perpetrators of a terrorist attack and because it can try the suspects in absentia.
The February 14, 2005 seafront blast killed 22 people as well as Damascus opponent Hariri and wounded 226, leading to the establishment by the U.N. Security Council of the STL in 2007.
Prosecutors will aim to prove the accused men's involvement through tracking their alleged use of mobile phones before, during and after the attack.
Suspects belong to Syria- and Iran-backed Hizbullah
Although the attack was initially blamed on pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, the court in 2011 issued arrest warrants against Mustafa Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 50, Hussein Oneissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 37, all members of the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Shiite movement Hizbullah.
A fifth suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, 48, was indicted last year and his case may yet be joined to the current trial.