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Hariri assassination trial set to open in the Netherlands

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Hariri assassination trial set to open in the Netherlands

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Nine years on from the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the trial of the men suspected of being his killers is set to begin far from the shrine to his memory in Beirut.

On Thursday, the United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon will begin on the outskirts of The Hague.

The suicide bomb attack which killed Hariri and 22 others was one of the most dramatic political assassinations in the Middle East and led to heightened tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Lebanon.

The five Hezbollah-linked suspects will be tried in absentia and remain at large. The militant group deny all charges blaming a US-Israeli conspiracy against them.

Some hope that the trial will put an end to political killings which have blighted the country’s recent history, others are less optimistic.

“We know that there are a lot of actors exercising political assassination, the assassination for political goals,” says Dr Leila Nicolas Rahbany, an expert in international law. “That’s why I don’t think that the assassinations for political goals will stop through a tribunal,” she added.

With the war raging across the border in Syria and a political assassination of a former aide to Hariri taking place just 19 days ago, an uneasy calm reigns in Lebanon.