Lebanon News

Donaldson seeks to tie phones to Ayyash at STL

BEIRUT: Prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson attributed several mobile devices to defendant Salim Ayyash in Thursday’s hearing of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. According to the prosecution, the four indicted suspects accused of carrying out the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri operated through covert cellular networks, which have been color-coded by the investigation.

Each color denotes a particular aspect of the operation phone users were assigned to carry out. With few exceptions, the covert phones were exclusively used for calls related to organizing and carrying out the plot.

In order to establish the user of each device, investigators such as Donaldson have analyzed call records in an attempt to link the covert phones to a personal device of the defendants. Co-location analysis is one of the strategies investigators have adopted to determine a linkage. This strategy seeks to connect multiple phones to a single user by tracing the similar activities of several phones.

Donaldson spent the majority of the morning session using co-location analysis to claim that a cell phone labeled “Yellow 235” was linked to Personal Mobile Phone 935 – a device previously attributed to Ayyash by the prosecution.

“PMP 935 was used at [cell sector] Harouf 3 at 18:37. Seven minutes later, Yellow 294 was used at [cell sector] Harouf 3,” Prosecution Counsel Marc Desalliers said, summarizing Donaldson’s report.

He continued to note the similar movements of both phones in Harouf – a village in south Lebanon’s Nabatieh – in the months before the February 2005 bombing.

“There were two calls from Yellow 294 at 8 p.m. [in] Harouf 3, and then PMP 935 [was used in] Harouf 3 at 8:01, one minute later,” Desalliers added.

According to Donaldson, the multiple accounts of these two phones being used in the same place in similar timeframes support the theory that one individual operated both devices. In this particular case, the prosecution claimed that Ayyash brought both his covert yellow phone and his personal device to Harouf.

In an STL hearing in July, Donaldson connected PMP 935 to Ayyash through an insurance document. Following a car crash on the Sidon-Beirut highway 13 years ago, Ayyash was reported to have called his insurance agent using PMP 935, strengthening the link between user and device.

Donaldson continued Thursday’s testimony demonstrating instances of co-location between additional phones attributed to Ayyash.

In the concluding remarks of his summary, Donaldson presented a slideshow with details of the similar activities between covert phones, Yellow 294, Blue 233, Red 741, Yellow 669 and Ayyash’s personal phone.

“[This PowerPoint slide] demonstrates that these phones, which were all part of the [covert] network, were carried over an extensive period. [The activities are] consistent [with] common movements that I believe are attributable to Ayyash.”

Cellular records have been critical to both the prosecution and defense teams as all four individuals accused of carrying out the bombings are being tried in absentia.

The STL resumes Friday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 25, 2017, on page 3.




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