Hamadeh Resumes STL Testimony: Syrian Officials Seized Files in My Assassination Attempt to Muzzle Investigation
MP Marwan Hamadeh resumed on Monday his testimony before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon by recounting the developments in the country following the extension of President Emile Lahoud's term and detailing the assassination attempt against him in October 2004.
He said before the Trial Chamber: “A brief investigation was launched in my assassination attempt before Syrian officials took away the files and transported them to the headquarters of Syrian intelligence in Anjar.”
“Then Interior Minister Elias al-Murr can attest to my claims,” he declared before the court.
“Head of Syrian Intelligence in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh had reportedly said of my assassination attempt that either Israel was behind it or that I had done it to myself,” he added.
Hamadeh had kicked off the testimony by describing the role of the fledgling opposition in Lebanon against Syrian influence that led to the formation of the Bristol gathering.
The gathering included the Democratic Gathering, Democratic Renewal Movement, Democratic Left Movement, Qornet Shehwan gathering, and various MPs loyal to Hariri.
Its members held regular meetings that tackled ways to confront Syria's growing power in the wake of the extension of Lahoud's term on September 3, 2004.
“Hariri was hoping that a moderate national unity cabinet would help sway the power balance in Lebanon's favor against Syria,” said Hamadeh,
He revealed that a deal was proposed to the premier where his bloc would vote for the parliamentary amendment, which would lead to the extension, in exchange for allowing him to form a cabinet.
Hariri was making efforts to form this cabinet, explained the MP, but Syrian officials kept hindering his attempts and opposing names of potential ministers.
The MP said that he and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat had repeatedly urged the premier to resign and leave Lebanon due to security dangers and pressure exerted by Syria against him.
The Syrian obstacles and media stories that suggested that his cabinet lineup would be rejected forced Hariri to resign in October, he continued.
“He was informed on October 20, 2004 that forming a cabinet was no longer viable and that he must resign,” added Hamadeh.
“Hariri submitted his resignation to Lahoud and later issued a statement that was interpreted as a farewell to Lebanon,” commented the lawmaker.
The testimony then moved to the assassination attempt against Hamadeh on October 1, 2004.
He said that a roadside bomb attack targeted his vehicle shortly after he left his Beirut residence for parliament.
“My companion was immediately killed, while my driver and I were severely wounded,” he remarked.
He explained that he was not riding in an armored car and did not take security precautions, “because it had never occurred to us that an assassination would take place.”
“The attempt against my life was aimed at killing me and also served as a message to Hariri and Jumblat,” he said.
A day before Hariri's assassination on February 14, 2005, the MP revealed that he discussed, during a Bristol Gathering meeting, threats against the former premier.
“Hariri took the threats against him seriously, but not seriously enough. He believed that they would not dare kill him and that he was probably immune to an assassination because of his high standing,” he remarked.
Asked about the investigation in his murder attempt, Hamadeh recalled: “The only investigation in my attack was limited to a policeman taking my statement, in a meeting that did not last more than five minutes.”
The real investigation started with the arrival of United Nations investigator Peter Fitzgerald to Lebanon to tackle Hariri's assassination in February 2005.
The STL Defense then objected to the extensive discussion of the attempt against Hamadeh's life, saying it is not the main issue at hand.
Hamadeh continued: “With the exception of the brief investigation in the assassination of Kamal Jumblat in 1977, no investigations were held in the assassinations of public figures in Lebanon.”
“Murr informed me that the files on my assassination attempt were stolen ten days after the attack,” he revealed.
“Police chief of the Internal Security Forces at the time Marwan al-Zein informed me that Ghazaleh had told him that Israel was behind the attack or that I had done it myself,” he continued.
Hamadeh noted: “Ghazaleh was trying to make the ISF disregard the investigation in my assassination attempt.”
Zein was later removed from his post after the formation of PM Omar Karami's government in November 2004 and appointed as Lebanon's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said the MP.
“Following his resignation in October, all of Syria's allies in Lebanon launched a campaign against Hariri and a large number of his state-appointed security entourage was removed,” remarked Hamadeh.
“The campaign against Hariri started in parallel with all the contradictions in Syria's manner towards him in 2003 and reached its peak in 2004 and 2005,” he explained.
“The campaign became so stifling that days before his assassination pro-Syrian officials even criticized him for purchasing oil to distribute to the poor,” the lawmaker noted.
“Syrian pressure against Hariri was aimed at deterring him from running in the elections or at least forcing him to ally himself with pro-Syrian figures,” he stated.
“Despite all of the pressure and threats against him, Hariri maintained his calm. He was looking forward to the 2005 parliamentary elections in order to thwart Syria's ambitions in Lebanon,” he recounted.
“Hariri had repeatedly told me during that period that we will be victorious in the elections regardless of what law is adopted,” Hamadeh said of parliamentary sessions in February 2005 that were tackling the issue of the electoral law.
Commenting on United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, Hamadeh stated: “Syrian officials had always accused Hariri of leaning towards the West and being behind the resolution.”
U.N. Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559 Terje Roed-Larsen had met with Syrian President Bashar Assad three days prior to Hariri's assassination and he explained that he was “very angry” with the slain premier, revealed Hamadeh to the court.
“The year 2000 was a critical for in Lebanese-Syrian ties. It witnessed the withdrawal of Israel from the South, but maintained its occupation of the Shebaa Farms, whose identity is disputed between Lebanon and Syria,” he explained.
“The dispute over the identity of the Farms is at the heart of the ongoing armament of Hizbullah. Had this issue been resolved, the party would not have had its excuse to maintain its weapons,” he said.
The STL session will resume hearing the testimony of Hamadeh on Tuesday.
It is also expected to make a ruling over the possibility of summoning Jumblat to make his testimony as a witness before the court, announced presiding Judge David Re.