Rafik Hariri: Verdict in ex-Lebanese PM's death won't end turmoil

A verdict is expected today. Credit: AP

The blast that killed Rafik Hariri and 21 others 15 years ago tore a crater into the ground 30-feet wide.

It destroyed a huge part of Beirut’s waterfront. In the years since the area has been rebuilt and a monument built to honour the dead.

However, in many ways the country itself stands as a monument to what went on - the political division and social turmoil as great now as it was then.

The international investigation into the former Lebanese Prime Minister’s death has lasted 11 years, cost more than £500 million and heard testimony from 297 witnesses.

Yet after all that today’s ruling will deliver a verdict rather than justice.

This trial has never been attended by the defendants, all of whom have been tried in absentia, their whereabouts are unknown.

All are believed to be members of Hezbollah, the Shiite political organisation that wields power across Lebanon and will be shielded by their militant masters.

The killing of Rafik Hariri, one of Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni politicians, was widely believed to be the work of Hezbollah and their Syrian government backers who Mr Hariri was clashing with at the time.

A man prays at the grave of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Credit: AP

For many the fact the tribunal will not address which organisation or government may have been involved in the killing has weakened the value of any verdict.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah refuses to recognise the work of the UN-backed tribunal and as such will not recognise today’s.

He had earlier warned followers they would be pursued should they in anyway cooperate with its work.

Even the judge leading the inquiry has accepted he can only offer “incomplete justice”.

Today’s ruling will be largely symbolic but in a country in such crisis it has the power to further inflame political division and comes two weeks after the massive explosion that destroyed much of Beirut.

The waterfront where Rafik Hariri died had been rebuilt and restored as Lebanon sought to move forward. Now, thanks to the lastest blast, it stands broken once more.

It is a pitiful metaphor for the seemingly unending turmoil of this country.