Lebanon News

STL questions usage of unsecured phone group

File - A view of a sign on the exterior of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague, The Netherlands, January 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos)

BEIRUT: Telecoms investigator Gary Platt testified for the sixth consecutive session at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on cellular activity made by indicted members of the 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Platt, an expert in covert cellular networks, was questioned by prosecutor Nigel Povoas throughout Tuesday’s hearing. The investigator discussed a period of irregular phone calls made on “purple phone” devices between indicted suspects Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra. The calls in question took place from Dec. 30, 2004, to Jan. 7, 2005.

Cellular evidence has remained both a crucial and contentious aspect of the prosecution’s case against the four indicted suspects. The prosecution has alleged that conspirators were organized into several phone networks coded by color into the “blue,” “green,” “red” and a “purple” group.

“Almost 45 percent ... [of their] calls in two years occurred in these nine days aligned with the so-called ‘Cola phase,’” said Platt who then pointed to a graph documenting the call activity of cellular devices labeled “Purple 018” and “Purple 095.” The former device has been attributed to Sabra, and the latter to Oneissi.

The “Cola phase” refers to the period in which both Oneissi and Sabra’s cellular devices were allegedly used in areas around the Arab University Mosque, not far from south Beirut’s Cola junction.

Although not explicitly discussed, the spike in activity in this area of Beirut occurred at the same time and location as prosecutors allege Palestinian Ahmad Abu Adass was recruited to carry out the fake claim of responsibility for killing of Hariri.

In previous sessions, the prosecution has contested that under an alias Oneissi approached Abu Adass at the mosque to recruit him.

However, the judges in Tuesday’s session questioned why the purple phones were used during this recruitment phase as they saw it as out of character given the group is not classed as a covert network like other phone groupings.

The purple phones have recently been reclassified by the court as a “group” as they were used prior to the conspiracy and for personal reasons. The other three networks were covert “closed” network for planning the assassination.

Jude Micheline Braidy then questioned why Oneissi and Sabra would conduct such calls to each other on their purple devices.

“I don’t think they thought the investigation would go to this length where [as] they thought about it with the red phones because they used it with a very covert distinct fashion,” Platt answered. The STL trial resumes Wednesday, Feb. 8.

This article was amended on Wednesday, February 08 2017

The previous version of this story mistakenly reported that Abu Adass was recruited to carry out the killing of Hariri. The Daily Star regrets this error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 08, 2017, on page 3.




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