The militia group Hezbollah has dismissed a German magazine report that it was behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, calling the accusations "fabrications."
The report in Germany’s Der Spiegel is intended to “influence” the outcome of the upcoming elections in Lebanon, Hezbollah said Sunday in a message posted on the Web site of its television station Al-Manar. A Hezbollah-led alliance is running against a U.S.-backed parliamentary majority in elections scheduled for June 7. “It is nothing more than police fabrications made by the same black room that has kept on fabricating such stories for over four years,” Hezbollah said. The report, it said, is not only meant to influence Lebanon’s election, but also deflect attention about “the dismantling of spy networks working for Israel.” Since January, Lebanon has charged more than a dozen people with spying for neighboring Israel. Hezbollah, which is supported by both Syria and Iran, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States. Following its perceived victory over Israel during a 34-day military conflict in 2006, the group has gained more political power. Some analysts think it may lead Lebanon’s government after the June elections. The German magazine reported Saturday that a U.N. tribunal looking into the murder of Hariri has uncovered evidence that Hezbollah “planned and executed” the car bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut on Valentine’s Day in 2005. Radhia Achouri, a spokeswoman for the tribunal, said its policy is to not address speculation in the media.
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The tribunal at the Hague in the Netherlands will not “be dragged into a debate in the media about where the investigation stands,” she said. Achouri added the media should rely on official information issued by the tribunal. The U.N. body began its investigation into Hariri’s death in March, and the case is expected to be ready for trial by 2010. At the time of Hariri’s death, neighboring Syria had immense political influence in Lebanon. Hariri was admired for spearheading the rebuilding of Beirut after the country’s civil war, from 1975 to 1990. Many Lebanese blamed Syria for the killing, citing Hariri’s patriotism and strong sense of Lebanese independence. Soon after the blast, U.N. investigators tasked to probe the attack found links between Syria’s government and Hariri’s assassination. But Der Spiegel said in its report that the new evidence points not to the Syrians but to Hezbollah. The magazine said investigators reached their conclusion based on mobile phone use at the time of Hariri’s death. The report said the phones were used exclusively for communications between the alleged assassins except for one occasion — a suspect called a girlfriend. Tracing that single call, investigators figured out the name of the operative who belonged to a “special forces” unit of the Hezbollah, the magazine said. Officials were then able to link him to Hezbollah higher-ups, the report said. The magazine piece is based entirely on unnamed sources.