Lebanon News

Red lines went dark after Hariri killing: Platt

BEIRUT: Witness Gary Platt told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Tuesday the cessation of all activity on the network of red phone lines immediately after the assasination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005, reinforces evidence that the callers were tied to the crime. Platt explained that the last phone call took place from “12:50 p.m. to 12:53 p.m. ... and then it shuts down and finishes ... there is no further red network activity henceforth.”

An expert on covert cellular networks, Platt has testified previously on the alleged movements of the five defendants in the months leading up to the assassination. Building a picture of suspects’ movements through cellular data, his evidence has bolstered the prosecution’s case that places the five men, tried in absentia, at the center of the conspiracy.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Platt’s one-and-a-half-month-long involvement in the trial culminated in an analysis of the defendants’ activities in the moments leading up to the bombing. The majority of the phone records offered as evidence were associated with “red network” phones. This particular network has been delineated by the prosecution as belonging to the team of operational agents that tracked Hariri’s movements and carried out the attack that killed the former prime minister and 21 others.

Prior to the detonation of the truck bomb outside the St. Georges Hotel, Hariri had been to the Place de l’Etoile cafe near Parliament. Platt testified that call activity attributed to the accused had been identified in the cafe’s vicinity, suggesting that Hariri was followed from the cafe until the moment the bomb went off.

“The three calls are related to the operation: one is to get to the [Mitsubishi] Canter van [used to transport the bomb], the second call [is] to [defendant] Salim Ayyash ... and likewise the third one is probably from [an anonymous actor] in the Parliament area, saying the operation is complete, as Hariri leaves the Parliament area,” Platt said.

Following the discussion of phone activity, Prosecution Counselor Gary Povoas used CCTV images to show the Mitsubishi Canter van leaving the St. Georges’ tunnel and arriving near the HSBC Bank, meters away from the scene of the attack.

Using photo evidence, the prosecution has alleged that the vehicle was parked in the tunnel while waiting for Hariri to leave the Parliament area, and then trailed the former prime minister’s convoy before detonating.

Despite a spike in calls in the preceding hour, Platt demonstrated that red network activity immediately stopped moments before the detonation of the bomb. This sudden interruption in activity, he added, further ties the callers to the crime.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 15, 2017, on page 2.

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