Lebanon To Prosecute Iraqi Diplomats
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Two Iraqi diplomats will stand trial for the killing of an Iraqi dissident, Lebanon’s top prosecutor said after Beirut severed diplomatic ties with Iraq over the killing.
The severance of ties has ″negated the diplomatic immunity of the two detained Iraqis and allows their trial before Lebanese courts,″ Prosecutor- General Munif Oweidat told reporters Tuesday.
The government Monday charged that Iraq had ordered the assassination of prominent Iraqi dissident Sheik Taleb Ali al-Suheil in Beirut last week. Iraq’s charge d’affaires, Awad Fakhri, was told Tuesday to close his mission and leave the country in 72 hours.
Al-Suheil, 64, identified as a key figure in a plot against Saddam Hussein last year, was killed by a single bullet to the heart at his Beirut apartment. Authorities say the assassin’s silencer-equipped pistol was found in the car the diplomats used to flee the scene.
Iraqi Cultural Attache Mohammed Kazem Faris, 37, and Commercial Attache Khaled Alwan Khalaf, 35 were being held in solitary confinement at Beirut’s Hilou central police station.
The Lebanese government says the two attaches were caught and have confessed to committing the crime under orders from Iraq’s intelligence service.
Two other Iraqi diplomats were wanted for interrogation in the case.
The authorities also want to question Hadi Hassan, a low-ranking Iraqi diplomat suspected of being the gunman.
The government says he is hiding at the Iraqi Embassy along with consul Ali Sultan Darwish, identified as the chief intelligence officer and suspected of masterminding the assassination.
A Lebanese employee of the embassy, George Teredjian, who allegedly drove Faris, Khalaf and Hassan to al-Suheil’s apartment, was arrested and formally charged Friday with complicity in the slaying. He, too, is in solitary confinement.
Iraq maintains it was not involved in the assassination and demands the diplomats’ release.
Al-Suheil’s was the second political killing in Beirut in less than three months, despite efforts to stabilize the country after the 1975-1990 civil war. A Jordanian diplomat was assassinated Jan. 29.
It was not immediately clear whether Lebanon has legal jurisdiction to try the two Iraqis under international agreements governing diplomatic relations.
There is no precedent for bringing a diplomat to trial in Lebanon although there have been expulsions.
He gave no details on when prosecution would begin.