Lebanon News

STL prosecution links accused to Hezbollah

BEIRUT: The prosecution at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Wednesday submitted for inclusion a report suggesting links between Hezbollah and those accused of orchestrating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The most significant item from an otherwise run-of-the-mill, procedural day at the hearing was not the first time the group has been linked to the plot.

Indeed, the indictment, submitted in 2011, noted that the accused were “supporters of Hezbollah,” and that two of the accused, Mustafa Badreddine and Salim Ayyash, were brothers-in-law of senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah, a founding member of Hezbollah who ran its military wing from 1983 until his death in February 2008.

Badreddine is no longer among the accused, having died fighting in Syria. After his death, he was lauded as a Hezbollah military commander.

The report submitted Wednesday concerned two phones allegedly used by the accused in organizing the assassination, which form part of the “green network” of phones. These phones were frequently used in the Haret Hreik neighborhood in Beirut’s southern suburbs where Hezbollah has its headquarters, and have been attributed by the prosecution to the accused.

Hezbollah itself has never been straightforwardly implicated in the trial, although the prosecution occasionally connects the group indirectly. As recently as Oct. 17 this year, for example, prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson suggested that Hezbollah had the power to influence witnesses who had been “interviewed in Hezbollah areas [and] brought in with a Hezbollah solicitor.”

It had previously been argued that the two phones, “Green 300” and “Green 023,” had been used by Hezbollah to track Mossad agents operating in Lebanon. However, according to Alexander Milne, Senior Trial Counsel for the prosecution, the report supported the “analysis done by the ISF [Internal Security Forces] at the time, calling into question the use of those particular phones, that is Green 300 and Green 023, and giving rise to doubt that they were indeed pursuing Mossad agents at the time. There was not sufficient coincidence with these numbers and the alleged Mossad agents [suggesting that the users] were not surveilling the Mossad agents.”

Milne added that the accused “were able to make use of Hezbollah facilities such as telephones and ... perhaps other facilities as well.”

Mohamed Aouini, lead counsel for the accused Hasan Merhi, reacted angrily to what he perceived as unacceptable behavior on the part of the prosecution. “Almost four years after the start of the trial ... and as the prosecution has almost reached the end of its case, [it] today is trying to open a new case,” he said.

Aouini argued that the phones discussed by the prosecution constituted the presentation of new material facts, which would not be allowed by the Trial Chamber at this stage of the proceedings.

The STL continues Thursday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 14, 2017, on page 3.




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