BEIRUT – The leader of Hezbollah said Sunday that evidence believed to be held by U.N. investigators implicating his militant group in the death of a former Lebanese prime minister is worthless.
The Netherlands-based tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of Rafik Hariri is expected to issue indictments possibly as soon as this month.
The court has kept silent on possible suspects but several media reports including a May 2008 report by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine said the court will indict Hezbollah members based mainly on the analysis of mobile phone calls in the run-up to Hariri's assassination.
Nasrallah has also said he expects members of his group to be indicted, but has dismissed the court as biased and an "Israeli project."
The U.N. tribunal set up to prosecute Hariri's killers has caused deep divisions within Lebanon's government, which includes Hezbollah along with pro-Western blocs led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain leader.
There are fears of an outbreak of violence if the court indicts members of Hezbollah.
Nasrallah has said his group will "cut the hand" of anyone who tries to arrest its members.
On Sunday, he said he is confident the indictments will be based on telecommunications evidence linking his group to the murder. But he said Israel, whom he blames for Hariri's assassination, has infiltrated Lebanon's mobile telecommunications network and can manipulate phone calls.
"You are heading toward indictments based on so-called telecommunications evidence. This is not evidence. Such evidence has absolutely no value," said Nasrallah, addressing the U.N.-appointed prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare
Lebanese officials have confirmed that Israel has penetrated and has great control over Lebanon's telecommunications networks. Earlier this year, authorities detained two senior employees of one of the country's two cellular telecommunication companies on suspicion that they were spying for Israel. They remain in detention several months after their arrest.
Telecommunications minister Charbel Nahhas confirmed at a press conference held with experts in the field earlier this week that Israel was able to infiltrate Lebanon's mobile telecommunications network and could manipulate phone calls and short messages.
Nasrallah repeated those claims in his speech Sunday and said Israel bugged the mobile phones of Hezbollah members, allowing it to make false phone calls and send false text messages and track the users' movements.
"This court is amending its laws and work in a way that facilitates its issuing of a premeditated, politicized verdict," Nasrallah said.
However, he said he was not worried about the indictments, adding his group was stronger and more confident than ever.
Hariri's assassination in a truck bombing along Beirut's Mediterranean waterfront on Feb. 14, 2005, transformed Lebanon and the country's relationship with its larger neighbor, Syria, which is a main patron of the Shiite Hezbollah.
Immediately after the killing, suspicion fell on Damascus — leading to massive protests that ushered in the end of Syria's nearly 30-year military presence and domination in Lebanon.
Damascus and Hezbollah have denied having any role in the killing.