Hezbollah on Saturday commemorates “martyr leaders” in a ceremony in southern Beirut’s Dahiyeh amid mounting international pressure on the party following Bulgaria’s accusation that the Shiite group was behind the 2012 Burgas bombing. Meanwhile, the brother of a Hezbollah minister on Friday surrendered to authorities after being formally indicted on charges of involvement in a drug forgery ring.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was expected to address the Bulgarian government’s February 6 charge that two men linked to Hezbollah took part in the July bus bombing that left five Israelis dead. After the announcement, the White House and Israel called on Europe to take action against Hezbollah.
On Friday, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov reiterated Sofia’s charges and said that the two accused suspects were Lebanese nationals who had been studying engineering in Lebanon, Israeli YNet News reported.
The Hezbollah ceremony memorializes three influential Hezbollah figures assassinated by Israel in past years. Ragheb Harb—who was assassinated by an Israeli agent on February 16, 1984—was a Shiite cleric whose followers helped found Hezbollah, while Abbas al-Moussawi—who was killed in an Israeli helicopter strike on February 16, 1992—was the first leader of Hezbollah, and Imad Mughniyeh—who was blown up in Damascus on February 12, 2008—was Hezbollah’s top military commander.
Amid the backdrop of the commemoration, media speculation continued Friday on whether Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Hassam Shateri—who was assassinated in mysterious circumstances earlier in the week—was involved in Hezbollah operations.
Saudi newspaper Asharq Alawsat reported that Shateri “sat on Hezbollah’s Central Command and helped shape the party’s policies with advice from Hassan Nasrallah.”
The report added that the Iranian officer also helped set up Hezbollah’s telecommunication network and lead efforts to re-arm the party after the 2006 July War against Israel.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards said Thursday that “Shateri [was] a Revolutionary Guards commander who was also head of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon.”
Further controversy swirled around Hezbollah on Friday when Abdel Latif Fneish–the brother of Hezbollah MP and cabinet minister Mohammad Fneish—surrendered to authorities after an arrest warrant was issued against him for his alleged involvement in a drug forgery ring.
In an exclusive interview with NOW, Future bloc MP Atef Majdalani criticized authorities for not pursuing the case with stronger efforts.
“The judiciary charged eleven people, including Abdel Latif Fneish, in the drug forgery case. Will arrest warrants be issued against them? Why have they not been issued yet?” the head of the Parliamentary Health Committee said.
“No measures were taken against [the companies involved in the scandal], and they continue to do business normally.”
Majdalani also said that Fneish’s surrender on the same day the arrest warrant was issued “raises questions,” but did not elaborate further.
The drugs forgery scandal was first revealed by Majdalani—the Parliamentary Health Committee chief—in early November, who said that over 100 types of untested non-brand name pharmaceuticals were illegally imported into Lebanon.