Lebanon News

STL defense questions Platt’s impartiality as expert witness

BEIRUT: Defense Counselor David Young Thursday questioned expert witness Gary Platt’s previous testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that linked the five indicted suspects to the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. Platt, a former special investigator for the STL prosecution, returned as an expert on covert cellular networks and provided evidence and context on the alleged movements of the indicted suspects based upon telecommunications data.

Platt’s testimony has been foundational to the prosecution’s case. All five indicted are accused by the prosecution of being the main orchestrators of the Feb. 14, 2005, bombing.

Throughout Thursday’s hearing, Young questioned Platt’s possible bias when giving his original testimony. The defense counselor alleged that Platt’s statements placing suspects at specific locations rather than general areas implied partiality to the prosecution given his previous capacity as an investigator. “You have lost your impartiality; you have conflated the prosecution lawyers’ arguments with the evidence. Do you understand the point I’m making,” he asked. “You have merged the arguments and the evidence.”

Young proceeded by referring to the U.K.’s code of practice for cellular investigations. One article read that “the location of a mobile device derived using cell site analysis shall only ever be presented as an area. Terminology ... shall reflect this when referring to specific locations.”

Platt has linked indicted suspects to very specific places on numerous occasions, such as the Arab Open University mosque located in south Beirut. The prosecution contends that Ahmad Abu Adass, who falsely claimed responsibility for the bombing, was recruited at the mosque by defendants Assad Sabra and Hussein Oneissi, based on cell data.

In response, Platt argued that the document could be interpreted in various ways and implied that his comments were appropriate as his role as initial investigator was years before he returned as an expert witness.

Young proceeded into the second session of the hearing by questioning Platt on his preparations for giving evidence. Specifically, Young questioned Platt on why he did not look at a report by John Edward Phillips, the prosecution’s principal cell site expert. “Given Phillips [role] ... did you not consider it would be valuable to read his report.”

Platt responded that he “was trying to be independent of any of that evidence.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 07, 2017, on page 2.

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