THE HAGUE The alleged killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri should be tried in absentia, judges at an international tribunal in The Hague ruled on Wednesday, clearing another obstacle in the case.
Judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said there was no reason to revisit the court's decision to proceed in the absence of the four men accused of the 2006 seafront bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri and 21 others.
The court was set up to try Hariri's killers, but the men remain at large in Lebanon despite repeated requests for their extradition.
Their court-appointed defense lawyers, who have no contact with their clients, had asked the court to reconsider its decision in February to push ahead with the trial without the suspects.
The court was set up with the support of the Lebanese government, but many in the country oppose it.
The four are members of the powerful Shi'ite political party and guerrilla group Hezbollah. The movement says the court serves U.S. and Israeli interests.
The suspects include Mustafa Amine Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah figure and brother-in-law of slain Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyeh.
In June, the defense asked the court to dismiss the case, saying the court was illegitimate and had no jurisdiction over the crime, and judges are still considering that request.
The killing of billionaire politician Hariri led to assassinations and street clashes in 2008, bringing the civil war-scarred country back to the brink of conflict.
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Sara Webb)