Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said Tuesday that three former Lebanese security chiefs and the commander of the Presidential Guards are suspects in the U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The prime minister confirmed that the three former security chiefs had been detained for questioning earlier Tuesday and that the Guards commander had been summoned to appear before the U.N. probe.
The commander of the Presidential Guards, Brig. Gen. Mustafa Hamdan, appeared before the U.N. investigation in response to a summons, the Justice Ministry said in a statement earlier Tuesday.
The chief U.N. investigator, Detlev Mehlis, met separately with the prime minister and justice minister earlier Tuesday. The Justice Ministry statement said the U.N. investigation had been granted permission to use the police to “carry out raids, searches and escorting of persons for questioning.”
Lebanese security officials reported that former Justice Minister Adnan Addoum had also been summoned to the U.N. investigation, but the ministry statement did not mention its former minister. The security officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the investigation’s sensitivity.
First major police action
The detentions were the first major police action since Hariri and 20 others were killed in a massive bomb in Beirut on Feb. 14. The three detainees have previously been questioned by Mehlis, the German prosecutor who is leading the U.N. Security Council-mandated investigation into the assassination.
Under Lebanese law, those held for questioning can be detained for up to four days, but the order may be extended. Afterward, the detainee is either released, freed on bail or formally arrested.
The killing of Hariri, who was seen as being quietly opposed to Syria’s role in Lebanese affairs, provoked massive demonstrations against Syria and the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon. Domestic and international pressure led to Syria’s withdrawing its troops from Lebanon in late April, ending a 29-year military presence in the country.
Many Lebanese blamed Hariri’s assassination on Syria and pro-Syrian elements of their government. Syria and its Lebanese allies have denied any involvement.
Addoum and the three former security chiefs stepped down in April, as calls mounted for their dismissal from Lebanese politicians opposed to Syria. Addoum was both prosecutor general and justice minister at the time of Hariri’s assassination. A preliminary U.N. inquiry into the killing accused the authorities of tampering with evidence.
The three detained were: Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, the former chief of General Security; Maj. Gen. Ali Hajj, the former director general of the Internal Security Forces; and Brig. Gen. Raymond Azar, the former director general of military intelligence.