Lebanon News

Defense halts testimony of Special Tribunal expert witness

BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon resumed Wednesday with a hearing to bring expert witness John Edward Philips to the stand. Philips testified on new prosecution evidence linking defendant Hassan Habib Merhi to a cellular device dubbed the “gray phone.” The prosecution completed a near-200 page report on the device, submitting their evidence to the defense five days before Wednesday’s hearing.

“We do not rest on our laurels once we get the indictment in, we keep going. Our primary role is to investigate, assess and if necessary disclose,” opened Alexander Milne, senior trial counsel on the prosecution bench.

Following Milne’s statement, defense counsel Dorothee Le Fraper du Hellen protested the move, detailing the reasons for her opposition for the remainder of the hearing.

“After four years of trial where we have been discussing the charges against Merhi, [and after] 10 years of investigation that took place before the trial commenced ... we believe what [the prosecution] is trying to do is modify the case in light of the [new] elements,” Le Fraper du Hellen said.

She argued that the prosecution’s decision to recall a witness was “unprecedented,” stating that their request was “inappropriate” and failed to “satisfy the [necessary] criteria.” The defense counsel asked the trial chamber to bar Philips from testifying on the new report.

Her submission was ultimately denied by the trial chamber, which gave its formal decision to allow Philips to enter the courtroom.

Immediately, the defense counsel applied to appeal the decision.

The delivery of Le Fraper du Hellen’s opposition was met with irritation by President of the Trial Chamber Judge David Re, who frequently interrupted her.

Natalie von Wistinghausen, representing defendent Hussein Hassan Oneissi, interrupted the quarrel and urged Re to treat Le Fraper du Hellen with respect.

Despite Re’s multiple attempts to invite Philips into the courtroom and begin testimony pending further decision, Le Fraper du Hellen repeated her objections.

“This is prejudicial to our case,” she said after Re’s final attempt before the hearing was adjourned. “Our initial request was to exclude his evidence and testimony and now you want to call him into the courtroom without having a ruling on the certification for the appeal.”

Re ultimately conceded to agreeing to adjourn until Thursday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 09, 2017, on page 3.




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