The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has ordered the release of four Lebanese generals held for nearly four years without charge over the assassination of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

"The pre-trial judge orders ... the release with immediate effect," said judge Daniel Fransen in a decision broadcast live to Lebanese television and via an Internet webcast.

The move came two days after Daniel Bellemare, the special prosecutor in charge of the case, handed his recommendation to the judge.

The prosecutor had recommended that Mustafa Hamdan, the former head of the presidential guard, Jamil Sayyed, the security services director, Ali Hajj the domestic security chief and Raymond Azar, the military intelligence chief, be freed "with immediate affect".

In the statement read out at the Hague by the judge, the prosecutor noted "that a person may not be placed in provisional detention unless he is willing to indict in a very short time frame".

The prosecutor considered "the evidence available to him currently is not sufficiently credible to request the maintenance and detention of those persons", the pre-trial judge said.

The generals have been held for three years and eight months without being charged.

Bomb blast

The special tribunal for Lebanon, which began work on March 1 and is based in The Hague, Netherlands, said three weeks ago that Lebanon had supplied a list of those detained over Hariri’s assassination to the tribunal charged with trying the suspects.

But a Lebanese investigating judge earlier this month lifted arrest warrants against the four generals jailed since 2005 in connection with the killing.

However, the judge also ordered that the four remain in jail pending a decision by the tribunal on their fate.

Hariri was killed along with 22 others in a bomb blast on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005, stirring a political crisis and leading to the withdrawal of Syrian troops in Lebanon after a 29-year presence.

A UN investigative commission has said there was evidence that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were linked to Hariri’s killing.

Damascus has denied any involvement.

Source: Arab World