BREAKING NEWS: All Four Generals Released… (see below for update)
We are hours away from a potentially groundbreaking decision, vis-à-vis the detention of the four generals held in connection with Rafiq Hariri’s murder, the fate of the International Tribunal, and (further down the road) the outcome of the parliamentary elections.
Daniel Bellemare, prosecutor to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, handed over the investigation’s files to the pre-trial judge, Daniel Fransen, who must make a decision today regarding the detention of all suspects. As you may recall, Lebanese authorities released three of the seven suspects two months ago, but the generals (who have been held without charge for four years) are the high-profile figures that many in Lebanon’s ruling coalition were hoping would be implicated in the conspiracy. Nailing the generals, so the thinking went, would have established with virtual certainty Syria’s involvement in the crime, especially if the prosecutors were able to compel a confession along these lines from the generals themselves (“rolling them up”, in The Wire‘s lingo…)
There is a possibility that not all will be released; some may be sent to the Hague while others are freed. Should they be released however, it will be hard to escape the conclusion that Syria is off the hook. Almost four years to the day when the last Syrian soldier trudged ignominiously over the Lebanese border, Syria may have finally wiped its hands of the entire Hariri debacle.
Update: Celebratory gunfire and fireworks, it turns out, are even more effective in communicating breaking news than Twitter. The generals are free. What this means for the future of the Hariri tribunal is unclear, but one can probably safely conclude that Syria is off the hook, barring any major surprises in Bellemare’s investigation. More on this soon enough…