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The Special Tribunal for Lebanon issued a press release in which it stated that the Head of STL Defense Office assigned permanent counsel to defend the four Hezbollah members accused in the assassination of former lebanese PM Rafik Hariri

Here is the text of the press release :

Beirut, 2 February 2012 – The Head of Defence Office assigned permanent counsel to the four accused in the case Prosecutor v. Ayyash et al.

The Trial Chamber decided that the accused will be tried in absentia. Today the Pre-Trial Judge requested the assignment of counsel.

The Head of Defence Office assigned the eight counsel that were previously assigned as duty counsel. He stated that “he is confident that he assigns experienced and competent counsel. They are fully independent and can choose any strategy they see best fit to defend the rights of the accused.”

The Prosecutor is now required to disclose the indictment supporting materials to the counsel within 30 working days.

The defence counsel face the difficult task of representing and defending the accused without communicating with him. In order to assist in achieving equality of arms, the Defence Office shall provide counsel with legal advice and practical support.

For further information, kindly contact Joeri Maas, Chef de Cabinet of the Defence Office:

In absentia proceedings

In related development STL also issued another press release yesterday in which it stated that The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has decided to try the four men accused of the 14 Feb 2005 attack in their absence.

Leidschendam, 1 February 2012 – The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has decided to try the four men accused of the 14 Feb 2005 attack in their absence.

The Trial Chamber examined numerous documents from the Tribunal’s Prosecutor and the Lebanese Prosecutor-General, which detail the steps taken by the Lebanese authorities to apprehend the accused and inform them about the proceedings.

These efforts included multiple attempts by the Lebanese authorities to find the accused at their last known residences, places of employment, family homes and other locations. The Trial Chamber also took into consideration the fact that the indictment and the identities of the accused received massive publicity in Lebanon.

The Trial Chamber concluded that all reasonable steps have been taken to secure the appearance of the accused and to notify them of the charges against them.

While the STL is the only international Tribunal that can prosecute accused in their absence, it is a measure of last resort to ensure that the pursuit of justice is not paralysed by those who choose to abscond.

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