Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah will be interviewed this evening on al-Manar at 21:30 PM Beirut time (14:30 PM EST, 18:30 GMT). I expect it to be an important exchange, and the choice of an interview format (rather than a formal address) may suggest that Nasrallah is aiming to defuse tensions resulting from all the “Hizbullah-killed-Hariri” rumors in the Lebanese press.
For English-speakers, you’ll be able to follow the highlights on Naharnet and NOW Lebanon. Arabic speakers can probably find a live streaming feed of the interview somewhere online, and I’ll be sure to put the full transcript up as soon as it is available.
9:38 – Nasrallah confirms that around 12 people from Hizbullah (or close to the party) have been questioned by the Special Tribunal.
9:42 – Nasrallah says that he will adhere to safeguarding the secrecy of the proceedings, in compliance with the wishes of the investigators themselves.
9:44 – Those questioned have been questioned in their capacity as witnesses and not as accused.
9:46 – There are some who are accusing Hizbullah and its [state] supporters of being responsible for the crime. And some are saying that only certain individuals from within Hizbullah are responsible. The first article that accused the party was in Le Figaro, back in August of 2006, after the July War.
9:49 – Nasrallah goes through all the major news reports, articles, etc. that pinned the crime on Hizbullah, up to the report in Le Monde in February 2010. Nasrallah: “I consider this to be a political accusation.”
9:53 – The first to accuse Hizbullah were Israeli leaders.
9:58 – They accuse us of terrorism, of drug-trafficking, of money laundering, all in order to distort our image. This latest campaign is no different.
10:04 – Either the officials are just speculating about the proceedings, or the investigation itself is leaking information. Otherwise, it seems that there are self-proclaimed prophets these days who know which way things are going to proceed.
10:07 – The whole history of this tribunal is full of leaks. It is composed of so many different parties from different countries; so it is natural that leaks occur.
10:08 – The goal may be to distort Hizbullah’s image, to pressure Hizbullah, perhaps even to strike a deal with Hizbullah. I don’t know. But these are all just fantasies.
10:14 – The accusation against Syria of being involved in the murder was a political accusation that has been used since 2005 against Syria and its allies in Lebanon. This political accusation led to the death of Syrian workers in Lebanon and many other problems.
10:17 – There are several problems with this investivating commission. (#1) An investigating commission is supposed to embrace secrecy, particularly the secrecy of witnesses. It did not do this. There have constantly been leaks to the press and to political salons.
10:19 – (#2) An investigation is supposed to consider all possible hypotheses. They did not do this. They only considered one hypothesis: Syria and the Lebanese generals. They did not consider that al-Qaeda or Israel or anyone else might be behind it. If I’m going to objective, I would say that they should consider everyone, even Hizbullah, which they did not do at the beginning.
10:21 – And this continues to the present. The “4 Generals” hypothesis is finished. The “Syrian” hypothesis is finished. So now they are considering Hizbullah.
10:22 – (#3) This investigating commission has depended on false witnesses for four years. Who supported them? Who gave them passports, money, and told them what to say? And why haven’t they brought them in and prosecuted them?
10:24 – (#4) They put people in prison with no evidence.
10:27 – All of these problems lead one to feel that this investigation and the Tribunal are not to be trusted.
10:28 – We are trying to be productive. We don’t want to close doors. There are ways in which the Tribunal can renew people’s confidence in it. Here are some suggestions: (a) prosecute the false witnesses, to send the message that there will be no more false witnesses from now on; (b) prosecute those who are supporting and standing behind the false witnesses; (c) prosecute every instance of a leak; (d) working on every hypothesis about who might have been responsible for the crime; (e) provide justice for those who were accused and imprisoned. They can’t simply wash their hands of those officers who were imprisoned and accused of being involved.
10:32 – So, we would like for the Tribunal to be considered objective, but there are things that it needs to do.
10:33 – What is our position on the Tribunal? We, like all Lebanese, want to know the truth. We considered the killing of the Martyr Rafiq al-Hariri to be a very dangerous event for Lebanon and for the region. So we were very concerned and we want to know the truth.
10:34 – We will cooperate with the Tribunal so as to prevent the investigation from taking false courses.
10:36 – Our decision is to cooperate. We have no problem with the investigation commission to meet with our members at all.
10:37 – However, if the investigation is trying to drive towards the same conclusions that appeared in Le Figaro, as-Siyasa, Le Monde, etc. I reserve the right to take a different decision. If they continue to protect false witnesses, I will take a different decision.
10:38 – So, for the present time, we will happily cooperate. But we want to see the course of this investigation.
[I’m going to stop live-blogging here, as the interview has shifted to other topics. I will post a full transcript later.]