The UN donkey clip-clops on. Eight years after the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri – surely the longest murder enquiry in the history of the world – the international tribunal investigating his death has named another Hezbollah supporter as a fifth suspect in the killing. The Lebanese authorities, according to the court, have found that the “security situation” in the southern suburbs of Beirut, after two car bomb explosions, has “impeded” the hunt for four men indicted in 2011 – and now Hassan Habib Mehri, the latest name to be released. But why has it all taken so long? One of the biggest problems is that the information obtained by the Lebanese security authorities is so immense that it takes years to sift through.
The British, for example, sent the telephone numbers of millions of mobile calls made in Lebanon on 14 February, 2005 – the date of Hariri’s murder – to the Lebanese government within days of the killing. These were culled from the RAF-controlled communications centre in Cyprus’s Troodos mountains and included calls made to and from the presidential palace in Beirut; other numbers included the wives of Hezbollah members.
The British communications centre, whose vast domes feature in many photographs of the Cypriot mountains and form the background to a thousand tourist snapshots, has yielded all it can. But ploughing through at least five million phone calls takes years. This work was set back by the assassination of the most proficient of the Lebanese army’s communication’s experts. Then, almost exactly a year ago, Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, the head of the Lebanese Internal Security Force’s intelligence service, was literally liquidated by a bomb in east Beirut. No wonder the wheels of UN justice grind exceeding slow.
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