Appeals judges at a U.N.-appointed tribunal sentenced two members of the Hezbollah militant group to life imprisonment for their roles in the truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the deaths of 21 others in Beirut 17 years ago.
The sentencing on Thursday, like the trial, occurred in absentia, since the two convicted men, Hassan Oneissi, now known as Hassan Issa, and Hassan Habib Merhi, remain at large.
They were convicted on appeal in March of five crimes in the suicide bombing on February 14, 2005 that killed Hariri and 21 others and wounded 226 people in the truck bomb blast outside a seaside hotel while Hariri drove by in his motorcade.
Prosecutors had appealed after the two men were acquitted in a trial by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that found a third Hezbollah member, Salim Ayyash, also known as Abu Salim, guilty of taking part in the attack. Ayyash also was tried in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The tribunal, which began operating in March 2009, is headquartered outside The Hague, Netherlands, and has an office in Beirut. It was created under the authority of a United Nations Security Council resolution in 2007 and operates according to Lebanon's criminal laws and international procedures. Its mandate has since been renewed.
The trial got underway in the Hariri case in 2014. Judges concluded Hezbollah's leadership and Syria had "motives to eliminate" Hariri and some of his allies who wanted to reduce the influence of Syria and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon — but found no evidence of their involvement in the attack.
The tribunal, however, declared the assassination to be a clear act of politically motivated terrorism.