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Hezbollah fugitive can’t appeal over Hariri murder, court rules

A fugitive Hezbollah suspect convicted of the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafic Hariri cannot appeal against the verdict until he turns himself in, a UN-backed court says.

Salim Ayyash was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment last year by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Netherlands over the killing of Hariri in a suicide bombing in Beirut in 2005.

The 57-year-old Ayyash remains on the run, with Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Shiite Hezbollah terror movement, refusing to hand him over or to recognize the court’s authority.

Salim Ayyash (Courtesy)

Ayyash’s defense team appealed against the decision in January but the court says that under its rules he was not allowed to do so while still a fugitive from justice.

“The legal framework for in absentia proceedings at the STL does not contemplate a defense appeal in absentia,” the court says in a statement on the decision by a majority of the court’s judges.

“Counsel for Mr. Ayyash have not been appointed nor accepted by Mr. Ayyash, who absconded and has not been found. An arrest warrant against Mr. Ayyash is outstanding.”

The court adds that Ayyash under international law retained “the right to appeal the judgments if he appears, or request a retrial.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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