UN-backed tribunal on assassination of former Lebanese PM acquits Lebanon TV, convicts manager

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BEIRUT — A special U.N.-backed tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Friday acquitted a local TV network of obstructing justice. At the same time, the court convicted the station's deputy news director for not removing identities of confidential witnesses in the long-running probe.

The Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon ruled that the Al-Jadeed TV's deputy director, Karma Khayat, was guilty of failing to remove information about the witnesses from the network's website and YouTube once she was asked by the court to do so.

Judge Nicola Lettieri scheduled a sentencing hearing for Sept. 28. Khayat could face a prison sentence as well as a fine. "Today is a dark day for freedoms," Al-Jadeed TV said.

The 2005 suicide bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others was one of the Middle East's most dramatic political assassinations. The trail began last year near the Hague, the Netherlands, and is still ongoing.

Four Hezbollah members were charged in 2011 but have not been arrested, and are therefore being tried in absentia by the U.N. court. Hezbollah denies involvement, and the group's leader has denounced the court as a conspiracy by the U.S. and Israel.

Some critics of the tribunal have said the court should concentrate on finding out who killed Hariri rather than put journalists on trial.

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