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Hariri tribunal judge: Defendant Ayyash was Hezbollah member, used phone linked to attack

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) - The chief defendant in the trial of four Hezbollah members charged with conspiracy to kill former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was a member of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group, and used a cell phone identified by prosecutors as critical in the attack, a judge said on Tuesday.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is “satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt” that the evidence showed that Salim Jamil Ayyash used the phone, Judge Micheline Braidy said, reading a summary of the 2,600-page verdict.

“The evidence also established that Mr. Ayyash had affiliation with Hezbollah,” Braidy said. Ayyash faces charges of committing a terrorist attack and homicide, among others.

The Tribunal is reading the verdict in the trial. The judges have not yet ruled on Ayyash’s guilt or innocence. (This story corrects first name of defendant to Salim, sted Merhi.)

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; editing by John Stonestreet

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