The start of the trial for the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri leads the headlines of the Arab media on Friday.
“The international court presents its evidence against the accused in assassinating Hariri and Hezbollah provokes by raising their portraits and considering them ‘the noblest men,’ ” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, featuring a photo of the panel of judges sitting before a large model of the Beirut street where Hariri was assassinated.
The daily points to the contradictory line of defense adopted by Hezbollah, which agreed at first to take part in funding the court when Syria was the main suspect, but then adamantly refusing to do so when the suspicion switched to Hezbollah operatives.
“[Hezbollah’s] claim that the court is political was [itself] political from day one. Its claim that Israel was behind the assassination ridiculously contradicts its accusation of Hariri himself and his supporters in the March 14 Coalition of collaborating with Israel.”
Al-Hayat, another pan-Arab daily printed in London, leads with the headline “The international court: New facts and details about the assassination.” The daily dubs the court proceedings “historic,” describing the atmosphere in the court as a mixture of sadness and reverence caused by “the presentation of terrifying facts regarding the crime.”
“Victims’ families, who awaited this historic day, are convinced that their hope in seeing justice will be realized,” reads the article.
Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat stresses that the trial is taking place in absentia, with the four Hezbollah victims “fleeing from the law.” The article features a photo of a more recent car bomb: an explosion that took place in the Hermel region in eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian border.
Unlike most international Arab dailies, some Lebanese newspapers support Hezbollah in the trial. Al-Akhbar reporter Ibrahim Al-Amin critiques Saad Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister and the son of slain Rafik, for delivering a verdict against Hezbollah when the trial has barely begun.
“They are strange people, the March 14 group. They leave no room for things to develop naturally. They don’t even wait until the end of the trial, which they regard as the way to find out the truth about who assassinated Rafik Hariri. Just like in every other thing, they settle for the headline and they will take care of the details. Are they not part of the group of Lebanese who know everything and have no need for investigation? Do they not belong to the group ‘everything is easy’ “?
The trial also dominates the opinion pages of all Arab newspapers.
“Who dares punish Hariri’s killers?” wonders the headline of Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s editorial Friday.
The court, claims the editorial, is trying to do the impossible by staying out of Lebanese politics, while it is clear that the motive for killing Hariri was entirely political, not criminal.
“The uniqueness of the Hariri trial is in the fact that his relatives are menaced, themselves the target of assassination. Convoluted politics have made it difficult, if not impossible, for the trial to produce justice. Neither the Hariri camp, nor the Lebanese judiciary, nor even the international judiciary entrusted with the trial… is capable of producing real justice. It is unreasonable for four individuals to take responsibility for carrying out orders given from above,” reads the editorial.
But Al-Hayat columnist Hossam Ayatani believes that the trial nevertheless has “educational value.”
“This is the first time Lebanese and Arabs will hear the details of the assassination… from a judicial source that enjoys a minimum of competence and objectivity… no jokes, no puns and no fabrications.”