The Lebanese media quickly revealed the men named in the indictment by the UN's Special Tribunal on Lebanon (STL) that was investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The four are: Assad Sabra, Hassan Issa, Salim Ayachhe and Moustaf Badredine, all senior members of Hizbullah. The revelations quickly led to a verbal duel between Lebanon's billionaire Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, who is currently outside of Lebanon fearing threats to his life.
The key words in the debate were "stability" and "acting responsibly." As Hizbullah effectively dominates the current Lebanese government, Mikati said that all sides had to “act responsibly and think seriously [on the issue of the indictment] so that no one can use this opportunity to create instability in the country."
While the government would assist efforts at ferreting out the truth, Mikati insisted that Lebanon preserve an order of priorities. “Today’s reality requires us to study this issue in a wise manner by placing the country’s interests, civil peace … above all other issues." Mikati added that the indictment needed to be based on irrefutable evidence.
In other words, the avoidance of civil war and angering Hizbullah -- more or less the same thing -- took precedence over the indictment, particularly since the term "irrefutable evidence" is open to diverse interpretations.
From his exile, Hariri fired back and declared the indictment "this historic moment." The forces behind him, he said, were the ones who had genuinely backed stability. "We chose not to avenge or resent." Instead of resorting to the gun, the March 14 Movement relied on due process of law, he said. Those who wanted stability and reconciliation were required to back the tribunal and its conclusions.
This progress in the course of justice and the Special Tribunal is for all the Lebanese without any exception, and it should be a turning point in the history of fighting organized political crime in Lebanon and the Arab world, just as we want it to be a focal point for uniting the Lebanese in the face of the factors of division and the attempts to disrupt the principles of national conciliation.
Hariri therefore called upon the Lebanese government "to cooperate fully with the International Tribunal and not to evade pursuing the accused and handing them over to justice, which is a guarantee of democracy and stability…. The end of the killers’ era has begun, and the beginning of the justice era is approaching."
In other words, Hariri is effectively saying to the Prime Minister that the best antidote to sectarian strife is the judicial process and whoever ignored that process is perpetuating that strife.
Hariri was backed by his Christian allies, including former Lebanese president Amine Gemayel, who called for immediate governmental action in implementing the international decision
Another ally, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, innocently asked Lebanese legislators to regard the indicted as ordinary defendants without drawing any inferences about their political affiliation.
“We need to look at the accused as a person rather than link them with their party, sect, or country that he belongs to."
Geagea knows full well that given the seniority of the four within Hizbullah, the chances that they will be regarded as normal criminals are quite remote. He also realizes that Hizbullah is not about to sacrifice its top operatives to the tribunal. Therefore he has nothing to lose by framing the indictments as a law and order issue, because in any case they are a major embarrassment to Hizbullah and appear to reinforce the charge that they are not acting in Lebanon's interests but on behalf of "regional tutelage" (shorthand for Syrian and Iranian intervention in Lebanon).