The president of the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon urged Beirut authorities Thursday to step up efforts to arrest four Hizbullah terrorists indicted in the 2005 assassination of then Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
Italian Judge Antonio Cassese said Lebanon must do more to help the tribunal "in searching for, serving, arresting, detaining and transferring the accused."
Lebanon's prosecutor general recently reported attempts to detain the four men, all members of the powerful Iran-backed Hizbullah militia, have so far been fruitless.
Cassese also ordered that the indictment, unsealed Wednesday
, be advertised in Lebanon. Advertising the indictment would be a step toward trying the men in absentia if they are not arrested.
Cassese also insisted Lebanon's prosecutor general file monthly reports to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on efforts to arrest the suspects.
Hariri was killed by a suicide truck bomb on February 14, 2005, in one of the most dramatic political assassinations in the Middle East. A billionaire businessman, Hariri was Lebanon's most prominent politician after the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
Hizbullah, whose support is critical to the present Lebanese government, has denounced the tribunal as a 'zionist initiative' and refused to hand over suspects.
Cassese's call for greater effort is likely intended to establish whether the government is prepared to confront Hizbullah, the country's most heavily armed force, in an attempt to arrest the men.
The indictment relies heavily on circumstantial evidence such as telephone records to link the suspects to the assassination, reinforcing Hizbullah's criticism of the court.
"The text in our hands now is based on analysis and not clear evidence," Hizbullah leader Shaikh Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech
. "Those who were indicted should not be called charged but unjustly treated."
The indictment alleges the plot's mastermind is Mustafa Badreddine, a Hizbullah commander and the suspected bomb maker who blew up the
US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 Americans.
The other suspects are Salim Ayyash, also known as Abu Salim, Assad Sabra, and Hassan Oneissi, who changed his name to Hassan Issa.
Prosecutors alleged Ayyash led the assassination team and the two other suspects were responsible for a false claim of responsibility intended to throw investigators off track.