THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has submitted an indictment in connection with his probe into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, court officials in The Hague said Monday.
The tribunal registrar "can confirm that the prosecutor of the tribunal has submitted an indictment and supporting materials to the pre-trial judge," court officials said in a statement.
The documents, whose contents were not made public, were to be reviewed by pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen.
Speculation that the indictment would target members of the Shiite movement Hezbollah has prompted tensions in Lebanon, leading to the collapse of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's national unity government.
The spokesman of the March 14th alliance of caretaker premier Saad Hariri, Fares Soyeid, told the German nress agency dpa that "we are happy to see that justice is coming our way."
Soyeid expects the indictment to made public in one month.
"They will be published in the open by the end of February," Soyeid said.
Former opposition minister and a close ally of Hezbollah, Nasser Kandil, told dpa: "Handing the indictment did not take us by surprise we believe that this tribunal has lost it credibility because its evidence were based mainly on false testimonies which were prepared by Hariri's allies."
According to the tribunal's rules of procedure, Fransen will now be tasked with confirming the indictment before any arrest warrants or summons are made.
Such a process can take from six to 10 weeks, according to a Lebanese judicial source.
A few hours before the indictments were handed over to Fransen, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that nobody should politicize the work of the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination.
"No one should politicize the work of the Special Tribunal," Ban told a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding that "the independent judicial process should not be linked to any political debate."
"It is important not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation."
Lebanon is engulfed in political turmoil after Hezbollah and its allies withdrew from the government last week in protest at the U.N.-backed investigation.
The tribunal was created by a 2007 U.N. Security Council resolution to try the people who plotted the attack that killed Hariri and 22 others.
The former premier was assassinated in a car bomb attack on the Beirut seafront on Feb. 14, 2005.
Hezbollah chief Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech on Sunday reiterated that the indictment is "the work of Tel Aviv."
"I have already expressed my belief that the Israelis assassinated Rafik Hariri to change the whole situation in Lebanon," he added.
Nasrallah vowed that Hezbollah would defend itself against any charges, with promises to reveal in the next few days how it will defend itself.
"We will not allow our reputation and our dignity to be tarnished, nor will we allow anyone to conspire against us or to unjustly drench us in Hariri's blood," Nasrallah said.
"We will act to defend our dignity, our existence and our reputation," he added.