The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) on Friday sentenced fugitive Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash to five terms of life imprisonment for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
“The trial chamber is satisfied that it should impose the maximum sentence for each of the five crimes of life imprisonment to be served concurrently,” said Judge David Re of the STL, based in the Netherlands.
Ayyash, 57, was found guilty on August 18 of homicide and committing a terrorist act over the deaths of Hariri and 21 others in the attack on Beirut’s waterfront on February 14, 2005.
The trial was conducted in absentia and Ayyash remains at large. Three accomplices were acquitted due to insufficient evidence.
“The attack was intended to spread terror in Lebanon and indeed did,” Re said in reading out the court’s decision.
“Mr Ayyash’s crimes are extremely grave, he had a central role in the attack,” Judge Janet Nosworthy said.
“Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy, its politicians and leaders should be removed from office at the ballot box rather than by the bullet or a bomb,” she said.
Prosecutors had said five concurrent life terms were the “only just and proportionate sentence” for Ayyash, given it was the “most serious terrorist attack that has occurred on Lebanese soil.”
But there was not enough evidence to convict Ayyash’s co-defendants Assad Sabra, Hussein Oneissi and Hassan Habib Merhi, they said.