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U.N., Al-Hariris Deny False Testimony Claims

The United Nations commission investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri is dismissing allegations that a key witness in the probe was forced to give false testimony.

Husam Tahir Husam, who identified himself as a former Syrian intelligence officer in Lebanon, testified against Syria for the commission. But he now says Al-Hariri’s son, Sa’ad Al-Hariri, bribed him to testify against Syria.

In an interview with Syrian TV on Sunday he said he was also tortured and threatened.

He said Sa’ad Al-Hariri was convinced Syria was behind his father’s killing earlier this year but had no hard evidence to prove it.

The Al-Hariri family denies the allegations and called them a “desperate attempt” to mislead the investigation.

The U.N. commission has confirmed that Husam did offer information, but insists he signed his testimony on September 1 and that he swore he was giving the testimony willingly.

Husam was an unidentified witness who testified for the interim report on the assassination probe, led by Detlev Mehlis.

Rafiq Al-Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005 along with 20 other people in a bombing in Beirut. His assassination generated mass demonstrations in Lebanon against the Syrians. Syria eventually pulled its troops out of Lebanon in April, ending a 29-year presence in the small neighboring country.

The international probe into the killing has implicated several key Syrian and Lebanese figures. Damascus fears international backlash if it is indeed found guilty, and has persistently denied any involvement in the killing.