The militia group Hezbollah has rejected the indictment by a UN-backed court of four of its members over the 2005 killing of then Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.
Hariri was killed in a bombing, along with 21 others
A special court in the Netherlands investigating the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri has published a full indictment against four members of Hezbollah named in the killing.
In a statement, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said that the pre-trial judge, Daniel Fransen, had "found the prosecution presented sufficient evidence on a prima facie basis to proceed to trial" in connection with the car bombing in February 14, 2005, which killed Hariri and 21 others.
Prosecutors had previously confirmed that they were indicting Salim Ayyash, 47, Mustafa Badreddine, 50, Hussein Anaissi, 37 and Assad Sabra, 34, for the attack. All are members of the Iran-backed Shiite militia.
Hezbollah has refused to recognize the UN-backed tribunal and says it will not hand over the four suspects. The group has denied any role in the Beirut explosion, with its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, saying the UN tribunal lacked sufficient evidence to implicate the four men.
"What the tribunal published confirms what we have been saying for months, that the investigation is neither transparent nor scientific," said Nasrallah in a televised speech broadcast on the group's Al-Manar network hours after the Netherlands-based court unsealed its indictment.
Nasrallah says he will not sanction the indictment of the four men
"There is no direct evidence in the entire text ... the investigation was built on coincidental telephone communications," the Shiite leader added. "It is unacceptable that four of our honorable brothers in the resistance be accused, be victims of slander and injustice."
The United States, meanwhile, urged Lebanon to work with the Special Tribunal.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the indictment was an "important milestone" in Lebanon's quest to put an end to political violence.
"We appreciate the work of the Special Tribunal and call on the government of Lebanon to continue to meet its obligations under international law to support the Special Tribunal," Nuland said.
"This process is a means of ending the era of impunity for the terrible and tragic violence that has touched all of Lebanon's communities."
Author: Darren Mara (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Mudge