Naharnet with One of Bellemare's Assistants: Stability Concerns us, But We'll Say the Truth as we Reach it

Naharnet Special Report – Leidschendam:

Attorney General at the office of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, Eckhard Vihopf, sufficed with replying that the "indictment will be issued in the near future" when asked when the indictment in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will be announced.

He added: "The investigation has made progress in the past months, and we hope for it to make more progress in the upcoming months."

Even though Vihopf refused to add more details, Naharnet succeeded, after numerous attempts, to break the "wall of silence" Bellemare and his assistants were hiding behind.

Naharnet managed to meet with a few members of his team and acquire explanation in what appeared to be contradictions in Vihopf's statements, as how can the indictment be announced "in the near future" and achieve more progress in "the upcoming months"?

A prominent official in the prosecutor's team replied: "To those accustomed to the investigation and the STL's legal work, there are not contradictions in Vihopf's statements. According to the rules of the STL, the indictment can be issued at different stages and not in one announcement."

"In other words, the indictment will be released soon against one or more individuals, not through a single indictment, as a result of the progress achieved in the past few months, and it will be followed by other indictments that will encompass more individuals, based on the progress it achieves in the upcoming months," he explained.

Asked if the contradictory information attributed to Leidschendam (the STL's headquarters) is a sign of confusion as a result of the investigation's "weak" content and the campaigns against the "evidence", starting with the phone call data and Israel's violations of the telecommunications sector in Lebanon, the prominent official stated that the confusion does not lie within the investigation and the tribunals' bodies and branches.

"It instead lies within the Lebanese politicians and media that are affected by them, as they tend to make their own explanations to the few statements we issue and use them according to their interests," he added.

"They issue statements over what they assume we base our investigations and indictment on without these assumptions necessarily being correct," he continued.

"We on the other hand, know exactly what we want and where we want it to lead to through hard work and perseverance to follow the leads until the end," he added.

"We grant the Lebanese politicians and public what we believe is the sufficient amount to prove our presence, professionalism, and assistance in helping them solve their problems related to Hariri's assassination. They are free to deal with it and us however they want as long as they commit to pledges and international resolutions that we work under," the official said.

"We are not prepared to get dragged into debates. For example, we have taken our legal position over what you in Lebanon are calling the 'false witnesses' file. We distributed an eight-point statement to the media stipulating our legal opinion over this matter and I read a summary of it to your website in particular," he stated.

"If some individuals do not want to be convinced of our legal opinion, then this is their problem. We are performing our duties and the Lebanese should assume their responsibilities just like us," he added.

Asked if Bellemare will commit to statements he made a few months ago that his responsibilities include not taking a decision or step that would lead to instability in Lebanon, the official replied that he will, but this does not mean that the prosecutor will yield to threats that place the international community and the Lebanese before one of two choices: the indictment or stability in Lebanon.

"We have previously stated that the core of our convictions is that reaching justice is at the heart of stability in societies and therefore Bellemare's statement means that the international investigation will not allow itself to be used by a Lebanese or non-Lebanese political team to achieve something that has noting to do with Hariri's assassination," the official added.

"But the truth will be told and we will reach it without making any embellishments to it. It is natural that those who do not want it to be revealed will be harmed by it and we are concerned with the interest of those who are harmed by crimes, and not the interest of those harmed by uncovering those behind them," he stressed.