Lebanon News

Defense objects to questioning of cellular data witness: STL

BEIRUT: Defense counselors questioned the prosecution’s examination of witness Gary Platt at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, claiming new evidence had been presented without due process. Platt, an expert in covert cellular networks and former investigator for the office of the prosecution, has returned several times to the tribunal to testify. For five consecutive sessions he has answered questions pertaining to phones allegedly used by those accused of orchestrating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Feb. 2005.

Cellphone records have formed the foundation of the case against the five defendants, with the prosecution using call records to identify and trace covert cellular networks that were extremely active in the lead-up to the blast that killed the Lebanese statesman and 21 others.

Prosecutor Nigel Povoas’ questioning of Platt drew criticism from defense counselors as he questioned Platt about phone calls made by defendant Hussein Oneissi traced to Anjar, a town in the Bekaa Valley.

Several defense counselors interjected, saying that no proper warning was given to allow the defense to prepare questions regarding this evidence.

“This is the first time we’re hearing that these two ... phones [went] to Anjar. There are new facts, new evidences, new associated persons, new areas being provided in court without any explanation,” defense counselor Mohamed Aouini said.

Defense counselor David Young also lodged a complaint saying, “[Platt] has been in contact with the prosecutors for the last four years on a daily basis. So they had the option if they wanted to ... add an addendum statement to supplement the report so we could see how they put his evidence. And now it appears we are being ambushed on almost a daily basis.”

The defense called on the judges to hold to comments made in June 2014 in an opening statement meant to prevent the prosecution from engaging in similar methods of questioning.

The defense counselor contended that Povoas was using the witness’ testimony to give an extended closing argument, “In each question, he’s letting you hear his opinion on the call record which you had expressed to [the prosecution] not to do,” he said.

Despite the outcry, Trial Chamber President Judge David Re allowed Povoas to continue with his questioning of Platt. However, the witness’ testimony on cellular evidence was frequently halted due to objections from the defense.

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

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