Lebanon News

STL defense pokes holes in Platt testimony

BEIRUT: Defense counselor Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse contested Friday the legitimacy of evidence used by expert witness Gary Platt as well as the accuracy of his former testimonies at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. “You said, ‘There is over two hours of [cellular] inactivity ... on the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2005,’’ except that when you look at item 37 in the queue ... it is not accurate,” Courcelle-Labrousse said. “Between 13:19 and 15:31 minutes, [the cellphone attributed to defendant Hussein Hassan Oneissi] is moving or allegedly moved from [Point A] to [Point B].”

Courcelle-Labrousse, who represents the interests of Oneissi, continued working to poke holes in Platt’s testimony during his third day of cross-examination.

“I recognize that it may be an error, but it may be a significant one,” he began. “For the previous calls you stated that they were traveling, and here we see very clearly that the [cellphone attributed to Oneissi], is no longer in the ‘AUM’ area at all, since he is allegedly in the ‘Simon 3’ area,” Courcelle-Labrousse said.

“AUM” and “Simon 3” are cellular coverage regions delineated by network providers in the southern suburbs of Beirut used by investigators to link call records to geographical areas.

The four defendants accused of orchestrating the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others are currently being tried in absentia, making cellular evidence critical for both the defense and prosecution’s cases.

The defense counselor was also highly critical of Platt’s strategies while he was working as an investigator on the case.

“No investigations were made by [Platt] regarding the whereabouts of Oneissi’s family [who likely lived in Beirut’s Cola area]. The objective here was to prompt Mr. Platt to give me his opinion on whether people linked to Oneissi, or potentially family members, promoted frequent activity in the area,” Courcelle-Labrousse said, addressing the trial chamber judges.

The emphasis on the location of Oneissi family residences is part of the defense’s narrative to distance the defendant from suspicious activity, as phone calls made from an area where relatives live could be commonplace and innocuous. The prosecution has contended that cellular activity in the Cola area in January 2004 was likely related to the “false claim operations,” which would frame then 22-year-old Ahmad Abu Adass as the perpetrator of the crime.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 25, 2017, on page 2.




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