Lebanon News

Platt: Hariri watched by hit group two days before killing

BEIRUT: Special Tribunal for Lebanon witness Gary Platt detailed surveillance strategies used to tail former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two days prior to his assassination, throughout Tuesday’s session. For over a month, Platt, an expert in covert cellular networks, testified on cellular data that has formed the basis of the prosecution’s case against the five defendants accused of orchestrating the February 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.

By tracing the movements of the defendants using call records, the prosecution has charted a map of events leading up to the assassination. The prosecution has also identified four distinct cellphone groups and color-coded them to delineate their roles in the plot.

During Thursday’s session, Platt spoke at length about the “red network” phone surveillance of Hariri on Feb. 12, 2005 while he was at a church in Ashrafieh’s Mar Mikhael.

The red network has been identified as belonging to those who eventually carried out the attack itself, joining the surveillance of Hariri in the weeks before the assassination.

Platt noted a high volume of calls made by the red network in the vicinity of the church around 11 a.m. when Hariri’s entourage arrived.

He went on to speak about the geographical placement of the operatives. “[What is] especially significant, is that [red associated] ‘Subject 6’ is located in an area slightly north of the church. [We can infer] that he is covering the route back to Qoreitem Palace [Hariri’s Beirut residence],” Platt said.

The expert added that a group of red-network phones were not only marking Hariri’s location, but also monitoring areas the former Prime Minister might move to next, such as the Qoreitem residence.

Platt said that surveillance operatives were also situated beyond the vicinity of the church, monitoring roads that led to Hariri’s mountain home in Faqra.

“Calls between three subjects, after ‘Subject 9’ has been redirected ... appears to [suggest] that Subject 9 [went to] cover the coastal road potentially to be covering the route to [the] Faqra villa. [This all took place on] a Saturday, so potentially [Hariri] could go there,” Platt told the trial chamber.

Platt’s testimony supported the prosecution’s claim that the red network systematically followed Hariri’s movements on a daily basis, not only watching him but making note of daily routes taken.

“They were only using their red phones to conduct [surveillance]. The usage in the area was not dictated by them, but by [the movements of] Hariri. So any activity they had in the area was detected with Hariri ... so yes, the usage is quite disciplined,” Platt said.

The STL will resume its sessions Friday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 10, 2017, on page 3.

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