A UN-backed tribunal on Tuesday said there was no evidence of Hezbollah or Syrian regime’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others.

“The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr Hariri and his political allies, however, there is no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement,” said Judge David Re, reading a 150-page summary of the court’s 2,600-page decision.

The court started its session with a minute of silence for those who lost their lives and were affected by the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut and continued with the judges reading the verdict.

The judges said the DNA evidence showed the blast that killed Hariri was carried out by a male suicide bomber who was never identified.

Prosecutors also argued suspects had been using mobile phones to monitor Hariri’s movements in the months leading up to the attack.

On Feb. 14, 2005, Hariri was killed by a massive car bomb targeting his convoy in Beirut.

His assassination triggered countrywide protests that forced Syria — which some had accused of orchestrating the murder — to withdraw all its forces from Lebanese territory.

Later the same year, Hariri’s son, Saad, succeeded his father in the premiership after winning elections.

In 2007, a Special Tribunal for Lebanon was drawn up to look into the elder Hariri’s assassination.

In 2011, the tribunal issued arrest warrants for four Hezbollah members suspected of involvement in the crime; Salim Jamil Ayyash, Assad Hassan Sabra, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Hassan Habib Merhi. Hezbollah, for its part, has refused until now to hand over the suspects. 

In 2017, the UN extended the tribunal’s mandate for three more years, and the incident still officially remains under investigation.

Initially scheduled for Aug. 7, the verdict was postponed due to the “out of respect for the countless victims” of Beirut explosion of Aug. 4.

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