The daughter of a bystander who lost her life in the massive car bomb that killed former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri spoke Monday of her family’s harrowing search to find her father’s body.
Lama Ghalayini, 39, is the first victim to testify before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a UN-backed tribunal set up to prosecute those who murdered Hariri and 21 others in the huge February 14, 2005 suicide car bombing on Beirut’s busy seafront.
“In the beginning we always had hope that we would find something,” Ghalayini told judges, speaking via video link from the Lebanese capital.
Her voice at times trembling with emotion, Ghalayini described how her father Abdel-Hamid spoke to her the day before going for a walk in the area near the Beirut waterfront.
He was reported missing after news of the suicide bombing — blamed on five suspected members of the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, became known.
– ‘Completely lost’ –
“We were completely lost, we were in a state of distress and we needed to know exactly what the situation was,” Ghalayini told a five-judge bench.
Looking for their relatives, the family was confronted with the scene of carnage at the blast site.
Ghalayini said they received no help from the authorities in their quest to find her father, a businessman and an amateur pilot.
At the scene “I found body parts. There were also pieces of metal and stones. It was complete chaos,” said Ghalayini.
The family was so desperate that they even hired their own sniffer dogs but to no avail.
Ghalayini’s body was eventually discovered some 17 days after the blast, buried beneath the rubble.
Monday’s hearing marks the first time victims were allowed to speak in the long-running trial which started in 2014 against the five suspects indicted by the court, based just outside The Hague.
However, the STL has quashed the case against one of the accused, Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, who is believed to have died in fighting in Syria in May last year.
Four others, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra and Hassan Habib Merhi are being tried in absentia.
The STL opened its doors in 2009 and is the only international ad-hoc tribunal with the jurisdiction to try an act of terror.
Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has previously dismissed the tribunal as a US-Israeli plot and vowed none of the defendants will ever be caught.