By Dominic Evans
BEIRUT, Aug 21 (Reuters) - A Lebanese suspect in the killing
of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri has said authorities
know where to find him but cannot arrest him, deepening
political tensions over the 2005 assassination.
The U.N.-backed court prosecutor has indicted four members
of the Shi'ite group Hezbollah over a suicide truck bombing
which killed Sunni Muslim billionaire Hariri and 21 others as
his convoy drove along Beirut's seafront.
Hezbollah has denied any role in the killing and accuses the
court of being a tool of U.S. and Israeli policy seeking to
discredit the group, which is both a heavily armed militant
movement and a powerful political force.
It has said it will not let any of the men be arrested, even
"in 300 years". Lebanon told the court earlier this month that
it had been unable to track any of them down.
But in an interview with Time magazine, a man who identified
himself as one of the four suspects said his whereabouts were no
"Lebanese authorities know where I live, and if they wanted
to arrest me they would have done it a long time ago. Simply,
they cannot," the magazine quoted him as saying.
He said he was "innocent of all charges against me" and
could prove he was not in the area when Hariri was killed. "I
will continue living my ordinary life," he added, saying he
would not hand himself in to the "politicised" tribunal.
The report deepened a political rift between Hezbollah and
Saad al-Hariri, son of the slain leader who also served as prime
minister until Hezbollah and its allies toppled him in January
over his refusal to denounce the U.N.-backed tribunal.
Hariri said the interview showed that Prime Minister Najib
Mikati's government, formed with Hezbollah support, and
Lebanon's security forces and judiciary "are merely tools, whose
primary function are to protect Hezbollah ... and cover the
violations and abuses it commits against Lebanon".
Hezbollah denied the Time report. It said no interview took
place and that "the story is part of the Special Tribunal for
Lebanon's fabrications". Addressing Hariri, it said his comments
were based up "a lie and a slander".
According to details of the indictment published last week,
the four Hezbollah suspects were linked to the attack mainly by
information gleaned from analysis of phone records, which
revealed a network of mobile telephones used to track Hariri in
the weeks leading up to his Feb. 14, 2005 killing.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the
indictment was based on inference rather than firm evidence, and
has cast doubt on any case relying on phone calls, saying Israel
had successfully penetrated Lebanon's telecoms network and could
falsify data to implicate Hezbollah.
Last year a Lebanese prosecutor charged an executive at
state-owned mobile phone firm Alfa with spying for Israel.
Special Tribunal president Antonio Cassese on Thursday urged
Beirut to intensify efforts to arrest the four suspects and hand
them over for trial in The Hague.
"While the procedures followed thus far are reasonable, at
this point they are not sufficient," Cassese said.
Lebanon's report to the court said authorities had carried
out surveillance, interviewed alleged associates of the
suspects, visited places where they are said to have connections
and met municipality officials.
It said Salim Ayyash, named in the indictment as coordinator
of the assassination team, continued to show up at work until an
arrest warrant was issued against him in June.
The tribunal has also said it will investigate three bomb
attacks which it believes are connected to Hariri's killing.
On Friday, pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen ordered Lebanon to
hand over information about attacks on three other politicians
-- Marwan Hamadeh, George Hawi, and Elias al-Murr.
Former telecoms minister Hamadeh survived an assassination
attempt in 2004. The next year former defence minister Murr was
wounded in a bombing while Hawi, a former Communist Party chief
and critic of Syria, was killed by a car bomb.
The tribunal has jurisdiction over attacks that took place
in Lebanon between Oct. 1, 2004 and Dec. 12, 2005, but only if
the pre-trial judge sees a connection to the Hariri attack.
(Editing by Jon Hemming)