UN tribunal frees four Lebanese generals held in Hariri case

UN tribunal frees four Lebanese generals held in Hariri caseThe Hague/Beirut - A UN tribunal on Wednesday ordered the immediate release of four former Lebanese generals detained for four years without charge in connection with the 2005 assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Daniel Fransen, the pre-trial judge of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), announced the decision in The Hague, where the court is based.

The four generals are Jamil Sayyed, the former General Security chief, Ali Hajj, former police chief, Raymond Azar, former military intelligence chief and Mustafa Hamdan, who headed the Presidential Guard Brigade.

They were accused of plotting Hariri's murder, but not charged. The UN tribunal was launched on March 1 to try suspects in the Hariri case.

Fransen's decision would have no bearing on the generals' guilt or innocence, and they could still be indicted at a later stage, a Lebanese judicial source said in Beirut.

A UN investigation in 2005 said there was evidence of the involvement of Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services' in Hariri's killing in a car bomb attack in Beirut. Damascus has consistently denied any involvement.

The ruling comes ahead of Lebanon's crucial legislative election in June that is expected to feature a close race between the country's pro-Syrian Hezbollah-led opposition and its anti-Syrian western-backed ruling majority. (dpa)