As Lebanon bounces back, expected Hariri assassination verdicts loom

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The case, much like the explosions that devastated Beirut this week, is a vivid example of the debilitating lack of accountability, government dysfunction and unstable political divisions that have long plagued Lebanon.

Even before Tuesday’s explosions, the country was reeling from huge debts, a precipitous economic crisis, corruption, the coronavirus pandemic and the burden of absorbing more than a million war refugees in from Syria.

Then came the huge shock wave that swept through the city. Authorities attributed its terrifying strength to a giant stockpile of highly explosive materials that the government had neglected for years, allowing it to sit in a dense urban area despite the obvious risks.

President Michel Aoun said authorities would examine “whether the explosion was the result of negligence or accident” and “the possibility of external interference,” including a bomb or other deliberate act.

But, just as it did with Hariri’s assassination, this week’s tragedy has ignited deep political divisions in Lebanon. Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah on Friday angrily denied speculation that the explosions could have been caused by a cache of weapons belonging to the group.

“Several factions that oppose Hezbollah have started spreading lies that the hangar is a depot for weapons, missiles or ammunition,” Nasrallah said, saying the intention was to “terrorize the people. Lebanese and to portray Hezbollah as responsible for the disaster that befell him. ”

The same kind of divisions have hung over the Hariri affair from the start. Hezbollah has rejected the court as a tool of its enemies, Israel and the United States. Its leader, Mr. Nasrallah, has warned against cooperation with the tribunal and threatened to attack anyone who does.

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