LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 slaying of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri announced it convened the trial chamber for the first time.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon revealed recently that it issued arrest warrants for four members of Hezbollah wanted for the 2005 assassination of Hariri in a massive bombing in Beirut.
Last month, the tribunal said the trial in the Hariri case would start next year regardless of whether the suspects are in custody. In statements this week, officials said they were moving ahead with the preliminary steps already.
"According to the tribunal's rules, the trial chamber may meet before trial starts to engage in various matters, such as holding an initial appearance with the accused if one is in custody, deciding whether a trial in absentia is appropriate and ruling on preliminary motions," the statement read.
Lebanese authorities reporting to the tribunal said they didn't have any luck in apprehending the four suspects, prompting the tribunal to release most of the information it had on the Hezbollah members.
Hezbollah tried to discredit the tribunal's evidence in the case, which relies in part on cellphone activity. Hezbollah claims Israel has infiltrated much of the Lebanese telecommunications sector, making the tribunal's case dubious.