A String of Mysterious Disappearances

Serge Brammertz, the UN prosecutor of the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, refused to submit to the 15 members of the UN Security Council the names of the suspected perpetrators he wants to put on trial before an international tribunal. Brammertz, who submitted his report the Council last week, does not trust its members not to leak the information to Damascus – Qatar, in particular.

He fears any suspects he may name as potential witnesses against Syrian high-ups will be eliminated before they can testify.

Such a refusal is unheard of by the UN body.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East intelligence sources report that, from Sunday, Dec. 9, the Syrian authorities are engaged in a desperate drive to ensure that the planners and perpetrators of the crime never come to trial – in particular, President Bashar Assad‘s close family members and advisers.

Although Brammertz withheld the names of Syrian suspects, Syrian security police did not need his information before they pounced.

Three Syrian officers suspected of complicity in the Hariri assassination disappeared this week without a trace. Our sources name them as Col. Muhammad Jam’a, ex-Syrian intelligence chief in Beirut, Said Rabah, former head of Syrian intelligence operations in Mt. Lebanon and Ghassen Bilal, former bureau chief for Gen. Maher Assad, the president’s young brother and commander of the presidential guard.

Also missing is Gen. Muhammad Makhlouf, whose relatives say he has been hospitalized in critical condition after a road accident. They cannot say how the accident happened or offer the address of the hospital.

All four officers were employed at the time of the Hariri murder in the office of Syrian military intelligence chief Gen. Asif Shawqat, the president’s brother-in-law. They are therefore in a position to incriminate him.

Directly after word came out of the mysterious disappearances, Syrian security services launched the biggest wave of detentions seen in the country in four years.

According to our sources, some 1,000 arrests were made this week of every individual heard to criticize the Assad family in all Syria’s cities – from Suweida on Jebel Druze in the south to Qamishli in the north and Latakia in the West.

Furthermore, the names of hundreds of public figures, including regular Arab, European and American visitors considered friends of the regime, were suddenly blacklisted. The secret services and the immigration and customs authorities were ordered to bar their entry to the country.

Reacting to these draconian steps, the French presidential palace and intelligence moved fast to whisk the four Lebanese intelligence and security generals held in Beirut jail since August 2005 as suspected accomplices of the Syrian assassination team, out of the country. Their ability to testify against the crime’s masterminds has placed them in danger of their lives.

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