Lebanese tribunal probing Hariri's assassination cancels session

By Waseem Saifeddin

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AA) – The international tribunal in Lebanon probing the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri canceled a session Thursday in the trial of suspected Hezbollah member Salim Ayyash for his role in the assassination.

The court said it is running at a severe financial deficit and it may have to close by July if the financial crisis is not addressed.

"Despite taking in significant cuts of staff and across the board reductions, without additional funding the Tribunal will be forced to close its doors in the coming months," said registrar David Tolbert.

Tolbert said the funding shortfall leaves "important cases unfinished to the detriment of victims, the fight against impunity and the rule of law."

The court is funded 51% by foreign and UN contributions while the remaining 49% is covered by Lebanon.

The UN allocated $15.5 million to the court's work in March, however, it is insufficient to continue to achieve its mandate.

Ayyash, whose whereabouts are unknown, was sentenced in December in absentia to five life prison terms in Hariri’s murder on Feb. 14, 2005.

Hariri was killed, along with 22 others, in a massive car bomb that targeted his convoy in Beirut.

A Special Tribunal for Lebanon was formed in 2007 to probe the assassination.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara