THE HAGUE - Judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon confirmed Monday the court had the jurisdiction to try four men accused of the 2005 bomb attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
Defence lawyers last month launched a bid to have the UN-backed court declared illegal, saying the UN Security Council had abused its powers when it set up the tribunal five years ago.
"The trial chamber confirmed the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's jurisdiction to try those accused of committing the 14 February 2005 attack and connected cases," it said in a statement from its headquarters just outside The Hague.
The chamber "dismissed the motions of the defence counsel, who argued that the tribunal was illegal, violates Lebanese sovereignty, has selective jurisdiction and does not guarantee the accused the right to a fair trial".
Earlier this month, the court set a provisional start date of March 25 for the trial of four members of the Lebanese Islamist militant group Hezbollah even though the defendants are still at large.
The accused can be tried in absentia.
In June last year, the court issued warrants for Moustafa Badreddine, 50, Salim Ayyash, 48, Hussein Anaissi, 37, and Assad Sabra, 35, and Interpol has also issued a "red notice" for the suspects.
Beirut has failed to arrest them.
Billionaire politician Hariri was killed in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront along with another 22 people, including the suicide bomber.
Hezbollah has denied any responsibility for the attack and its leader Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the tribunal as a US-Israeli conspiracy, vowing that that none of the suspects would be arrested.