BEIRUT/NEW YORK: UN Chief Investigator Detlev Mehlis said the decision to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could not have been taken without the approval top Syrian security officials and further organized with the “counterparts in the Lebanese security services.” Mehlis, who presented his report to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday, said in his report on the investigations his team conducted since June 16, 2005, that “witness statements who didn’t approach the authorities for lack of confidence told the commission” that Syria approved the killing of Hariri.
He also noted that the “Commission’s investigation has confirmed what many in Lebanon have long asserted, that senior Syrian intelligence officials had a powerful day-to-day and overall strategic influence on the governance of Lebanon.”
In his conclusion Mehlis wrote that the “structure and organization of the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in Lebanon at the time of the blast, including protocols for reporting, shows a pervasive impact on everyday life in Lebanon.”
Mehlis, who listened to depositions of various officials including Hariri’s own son Beirut MP Saad Hariri, came to the conclusion that “the evidence collected by the Commission point to the possibility that Syrian officials were involved in the assassination of Mr. Hariri. When the Commission attempted to get the cooperation of the Syrian Government in pursuing these lines of the investigation, the Commission was met with cooperation in form, not substance.”
He also noted the rocky relation between Hariri and the Syrian officials most notably Syrian President Bashar Assad, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and Chief of Syrian Intelligence apparatus in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh.
Mehlis mentioned in his report that Hariri’s son said his father was threatened by Assad.
Saad said: “I discussed with my father, the late Rafik Hariri, the extension of President Lahoud’s term. He told me that President Bashar Assad threatened him telling him: “This is what I want. If you think that President Chirac and you are going to run Lebanon, you are mistaken. It is not going to happen. President Lahoud is me. Whatever I tell him, he follows suit. This extension is to happen or else I will break Lebanon over your head and Walid Jumblat’s. (…) So, you either do as you are told or we will get you and your family wherever you are.”
In his report, Mehlis also noted that Moallem thwarted the truth in his statement to the UN probe.
Mehlis explained: “The recorded interview clearly contradicts Mr. Al-Moallem’s witness interview of 20 September 2005 in which he falsely described” his 1 February meeting with Hariri as “friendly and constructive” and avoided giving direct answers to the questions put to him.
Moallem’s taped conversation with Hariri according to the report: clearly showed “Al-Moallem telling Hariri: we and the [security] services here have put you into a corner.”
Ghazaleh also gave falsified statements to the UN probe when he said that he met Hariri twice on August 26 2004 in Anjar before and after Hariri’s meeting with Assad.
Ghazaleh said he had discussed Hariri’s meeting with Assad and that “Hariri looked relaxed. Prime Minister Hariri said that his meeting with President Bashar Assad was cordial and brief. According to Prime Minister Hariri, President Assad told him: Abu Bahaa, we in Syria have always been dealing with you as a friend and as the Prime Minister of Lebanon. Today, I am also dealing with you as a friend and as the Prime Minister of Lebanon. We are of the view that it is in the interest of Lebanon to maintain the continuity of the regime by extending the term of office of President Lahoud. As a friend, we would like you to clarify your position regarding this matter. We are in no hurry to know the answer, and you may wish to think about it at your convenience.”
In his taped meeting with Al-Moallem, Hariri had said that Assad did not address him as Prime Minister or “as Rafik or anything of that kind. He just said: “I have decided.” I was totally flustered, at a loss. That was the worst day of my life.”
“He did not tell me that he wished to extend Lahoud’s mandate. I was not treated as a friend or an acquaintance.”
In a rare insight of the life Hariri led before he was assassinated the report details the “permanent” monitoring that he was under, especially after his security was diminished by orders from his former bodyguard Hajj.
“At the beginning of January 2005, one of the high ranked officers told the witness that Rafik Hariri was a big problem to Syria. Approximately a month later the officer told the witness that there soon would be an ‘earthquake’ that would re-write the history of Lebanon.”
But the report clearly states that the four imprisoned Lebanese generals cooperated and plotted the murder, also naming the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command Ahmad Jibreel and former MP Nasser Kandil.
Qandil was among the first to be questioned as a suspect by the UN team.
The report states: “General Jamil Al-Sayyed, according to the witness, cooperated closely with General Mustapha Hamdan and General Raymond Azar in the preparation of the assassination of Mr. Hariri.
“He also coordinated with General Ghazali (and, among others, people from Mr. Ahmad Jibreel in Lebanon). General Hamdan and General Azar provided logistical support, providing money, telephones, cars, walkie-talkies, pagers, weapons, ID-cards etc. Those who knew of the crime in advance were among others, Nasser Kandil and General Ali Al-Hajj.”
Although investigations still need to be carried out, the report provides alot of evidence between Syria and Lebanese agents that planned the February 14 bombing which killed ex-Prime Minister Rafic el Hariri.
The report also takes into account the subsequent bombings which took place in Lebanon.
The Syrians, naturally, are crying foul. As usual they claim to have nothing to do with this, and that Mehlis' report is bias. They claim that it was the Lebanese media which was so harsh that cause Ghazi Kanaan to kill himself!!
Come on?! Ghazi Kanaan, a Syrian officer who literally ruled Lebanon from Damascus for over 20 years...a man that's probably responsible for the deaths, and imprisonment of thousands of Lebanese.....suddenly becomes a drama queen and commits suicide?! That's the most pathetic thing I've ever heard.
I hope these criminals are brought to justice, so that Lebanon can get back up on her feet again without having to worry about her oh so loving and caring "big sister"...
Below is a link for the entire Mehlis report.
DETLEV MEHLIS REPORT
May God have mercy on us all...