BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday he had been told that members of his group would be indicted by a U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Nasrallah said he had been told by Hariri’s son Saad, who became prime minister of a unity government which includes Hezbollah after elections last year, that such an indictment could be issued in the near future.
“Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited me ... (and) he said: ‘Sayyed, in this month or that month there will be an indictment which accuses members in Hezbollah, undisciplined members which the group has no relations with’,” Nasrallah said, speaking by video link to a news conference in Beirut.
Any indictment of Hezbollah members would put severe strains on Lebanon’s unity government. Political supporters of Hariri and Nasrallah have traded increasingly heated accusations in the last few days after Nasrallah said the tribunal investigations could have been manipulated by Israel.
“There is no doubt that both of us would be in a difficult position (if Hezbollah members were indicted),” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah said Hariri, who he described as a “caring” man, had said that if Hezbollah members were indicted he was prepared to state publicly that Hezbollah had no links to the killing.
Nasrallah denied any link between his group and the assassination.
“The accusation is heading toward members who they tell us now are undisciplined members of Hezbollah — two or three. I don’t even accept half of a Hezbollah member (being accused),” Nasrallah said.
Media reports have said the tribunal may issue its first indictments in September or October.
The U.N. investigation into Hariri’s killing first implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials, although it later held back from giving details of its findings. Some witnesses retracted testimony they had initially given to investigators.
Further questions over the tribunal were raised when a judge released four senior Lebanese officers last year after they had been held for four years without charge.
Earlier this year, investigators questioned a number of Hezbollah members.
“All the indications which Hezbollah has say that the indictment has been written before our men were quizzed in April... It was written for political reasons,” Nasrallah said.
“I don’t accept decisions from this court unless they are based on solid and real evidence and (so far) I don’t see that it issues decisions based on solid evidence,” he added.
He said Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, had additional doubts over the tribunal because it had dismissed any possible involvement by the Jewish state, which he said had both the motive and the means to kill Hariri. Lebanon and Israel are in a state of war.
“As long as it didn’t work on Israeli (involvement) then it’s not an honest tribunal. Therefore any decision it takes is not based on an honest investigation,” he said.
German magazine Der Spiegel reported last year that Lebanese investigators had found a link between eight cell phones used in the area at the time of the attack and a network of 20 other phones believed to belong to Hezbollah’s “operative arm.”
Editing by Andrew Roche