LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands: Four Hezbollah members went on trial in absentia at a United Nations-backed tribunal on Thursday accused of murdering former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri in a 2005 car bombing, with sectarian tensions running high at home.
The trial opened in a suburb of The Hague nine years after the huge Beirut blast that killed the billionaire Hariri and just hours after another car bombing killed at least three in a Hezbollah stronghold near the border with war-ravaged Syria.
“We will proceed as if the accused are present in the courtroom and have pleaded not guilty,” Judge David Re told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
“The onus is on the prosecutor to prove their guilt.”
The STL is unique in inter–national justice as it was set up to try the perpetrators of a terrorist attack and because it can try the suspects in absentia.