Saniora before STL: I am Not in Position to Say that Hizbullah Assassinated Hariri
Head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora resumed on Wednesday his testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon by being cross-examined by the Defense that focused on the Syrian and Lebanese security systems in Lebanon during the 1990s and up until the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, as well as Hizbullah's role in Lebanon.
He said: “I am not in a position to say that Hizbullah assassinated Hariri”
“We want this tribunal to tell us who killed him,” he added.
Moreover, he revealed that Hariri “was clear in saying that the party's arms are an internal Lebanese affair that should be resolved through dialogue.”
On Tuesday, Saniora told the court that Hariri had confided to him that he had discovered several assassination attempts by Hizbullah against him.
He told prosecutors that Hariri had spoken to him of his concerns about his personal security around the end of 2003 or the beginning of 2004.
Addressing the Lebanese-Syrian security system, Saniora stated: “The system meddled in the judiciary and hindered the work of the Lebanese government institutions.”
He explained that Syrian forces first entered Lebanon to restore order in the country during the 1975-90 civil war.
The violations committed by Syria in Lebanon soon followed, he added.
“Ties between two neighboring countries should be based on respecting the independence, freedom, and sovereignty of each side,” stressed Saniora.
“The Lebanese-Syrian security system was comprised of a number of individuals and tools that enjoyed close ties with the Syrian security apparatus,” he continued.
“Security agencies are essential for any country,” he added, but the Lebanese-Syrian system abused its power and “hindered the path of justice by failing to tackle past assassinations in Lebanon,” he remarked.
It also tampered with the Hariri crime scene, which was confirmed by various investigation teams, noted head of the Mustaqbal bloc.
The Lebanese-Syrian security system also began to target those close to Hariri, Saniora recalled.
It even went so far as to fabricate accusations against individuals in order to imprison them, which it did, he explained.
“Later, the judiciary ordered their release because they were innocent all along,” Saniora said, while adding that there are dozens of examples of the violations committed by the security system at the time.
Furthermore, the Defense touched on the issue of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 and whether Hariri played a role in it.
Saniora declared: “Neither Hariri nor his team were part of devising the resolution.”
Issued in September 2004, resolution 1559 calls upon all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.
The Defense then questioned Saniora about the four generals who were arrested between 2005 and 2009 over an alleged role in Hariri's assassination.
The MP said that he had first met Ali al-Hajj when he was the head of Hariri's guards.
“I used to meet him in passing and we barely spoke to each other,” he remarked.
Hajj was eventually promoted to head of the Internal Security Forces, in a move Saniora said was supported by the Syrian security system.
Asked whether Hajj was responsible for protecting the Hariri crime scene, Saniora replied: “I don't know who was responsible, but ideally the head of the ISF should have been in charge. I don't know if he can be blamed for tampering with the scene.”
The Mustaqbal bloc chief said that he knew of Army Intelligence head Raymond Azar, but enjoyed no ties with him.
Asked about former head of the presidential guard, Mustafa Hamadan, Saniora responded: “I was aware that he was close to former President Emile Lahoud, who appointed him as head of the guard soon after his election in 1998.”
Former General Security chief Jamil al-Sayyed, Hajj, Azar, and Hamdan were detained from 2005 until 2009 for their suspected connection to the Hariri assassination.
They were released over lack of evidence.
The Defense also asked Saniora about Syrian Intelligence chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh and his role in Lebanon.
The MP said that he “used to see Ghazaleh by coincidence” when he used to visit Hariri's residence.
“We did not have any sort of relationship,” he added.
Asked if Ghazaleh had any respect towards Lebanon, Saniora replied: “I cannot speak of any person's internal thoughts, but he did not act in Lebanon's interests.”
He remarked however: “I lean towards the belief that Ghazaleh did not have personal hostilities towards the people he dealt with. I believe he acted the way he did based on orders he received.”
“I do not know the details of Ghazaleh's work. I only know the results of his work,” he said.
“As far as I know, during February 2005, Ghazaleh was the most prominent face of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon,” he noted.
“It appeared that some information used to be hidden from the Lebanese prime minister. Information could be relayed to the president without informing the premier,” he revealed.
The STL Defense will resume its cross-examination of Saniora on Thursday.
Five Hizbullah members have been charged with plotting Hariri's February 14, 2005 assassination in a massive explosion at the Beirut seafront, but have not been arrested. Their trial in absentia began in January 2014 and is ongoing.
Hizbullah denies involvement in the murder and the group's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has denounced the court as a conspiracy by his archenemies — the U.S. and Israel.