Former Lebanese prime minister and the leader of the FutureMovement Parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Siniora resumed on Wednesday his testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon by being cross-examined by the Defense that focused on the Syrian and Lebanese security systems in Lebanon during the 1990s and up until the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri on Feb 14, 2005, as well as Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon
Siniora who testified on Tuesday testimony that the slain Hariri , confided to him that he had discovered several assassination attempts by Hezbollah against himwas asked by the defense if he thought Hezbollah assassinated Hariri he said :
“I am not in a position to say that Hezbollah assassinated Hariri” and added:
“We want this tribunal to tell us who killed him,”
Siniora told the prosecutors that Hariri had spoken to him of his concerns about his personal security around the end of 2003 or the beginning of 2004.
Addressing the Lebanese-Syrian security system, Siniora stated: “The system meddled in the judiciary and hindered the work of the Lebanese government institutions.”
He explained that Syrian forces first entered Lebanon to restore order in the country during the 1975-90 civil war.
The violations committed by Syria in Lebanon soon followed, he added.
“Ties between two neighboring countries should be based on respecting the independence, freedom, and sovereignty of each side,” stressed Siniora.
“The Lebanese-Syrian security system was comprised of a number of individuals and tools that enjoyed close ties with the Syrian security apparatus,” he continued.
“Security agencies are essential for any country,” he added, but the Lebanese-Syrian system abused its power and “hindered the path of justice by failing to tackle past assassinations in Lebanon,”Siniora remarked.
It also tampered with the Hariri crime scene, which was confirmed by various investigation teams, Siniora noted .
The Lebanese-Syrian security system also began to target those close to Hariri,Siniora recalled.
It even went so far as to fabricate accusations against individuals in order to imprison them, which it did, he explained.
“Later, the judiciary ordered their release because they were innocent all along,”Siniora said, while adding that there are dozens of examples of the violations committed by the security system at the time.
Furthermore, the Defense touched on the issue of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 and whether Hariri played a role in it.
Siniora declared: “Neither Hariri nor his team were part of devising the resolution.”
Issued in September 2004, resolution 1559 calls upon all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.
The Defense then questioned Siniora about the four generals who were arrested between 2005 and 2009 over an alleged role in Hariri’s assassination.
The MP said that he had first met Ali al-Hajj when he was the head of Hariri’s guards.
“I used to meet him in passing and we barely spoke to each other,” he remarked.
Hajj was eventually promoted to head of the Internal Security Forces, in a move Siniora said was supported by the Syrian security system.
Asked whether Hajj was responsible for protecting the Hariri crime scene, Saniora replied: “I don’t know who was responsible, but ideally the head of the ISF should have been in charge. I don’t know if he can be blamed for tampering with the scene.”
Siniora said that he knew of Army Intelligence head Raymond Azar, but had no ties with him.
Asked about former head of the presidential guard, Mustafa Hamadan,Siniora responded: “I was aware that he was close to former President Emile Lahoud, who appointed him as head of the guard soon after his election in 1998.”
Former General Security chief Jamil al-Sayyed, Hajj, Azar, and Hamdan were detained from 2005 until 2009 for their suspected connection to the Hariri assassination.
They were released over lack of sufficient evidence.
The Defense also asked Siniora about Syrian Intelligence chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazalei and his role in Lebanon.
The MP said that he “used to see Ghazali by coincidence” when he used to visit Hariri’s residence.
“We did not have any sort of relationship,” he added.
Asked if Ghazali had any respect towards Lebanon,Siniora replied: “I cannot speak of any person’s internal thoughts, but he did not act in Lebanon’s interests.”
He remarked however: “I lean towards the belief that Siniora did not have personal hostilities towards the people he dealt with. I believe he acted the way he did based on orders he received.”
“I do not know the details of Ghazali’s work. I only know the results of his work,” he said.
“As far as I know, during February 2005, Ghazali was the most prominent face of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon,” he noted.
“It appeared that some information used to be hidden from the Lebanese prime minister. Information could be relayed to the president without informing the premier,” he revealed.
The STL Defense will resume its cross-examination of Siniora on Thursday.
Five Hezbollah members have been indicted in Hariri’s assassination but have not been arrested, because the party’s chief refused to hand them over to the Lebanese authorities .. Their trial in absentia began in January 2014 and is ongoing.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah blames Israel for Hariri’s assassination.
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