Lebanon News

STL defense contests phone link to Sabra

BEIRUT: The defense counsel continued to distance Assad Sabra from cellphone data attributed to him and his family by prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson at Tuesday’s session of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Sabra is among those accused of involvement in the 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

Defense counsel David Young continued Monday’s discussion of geographic profiling, challenging the prosecution’s attribution of a cellphone to his client. The phone had been used during daytime hours but Sabra, he noted, worked at a print works with no cellphone coverage during 2004-05.

Young told the chamber: “At best, [the prosecution’s evidence] can be viewed as material that is ‘not inconsistent’ with this phone possibly being attributed to Sabra.”

He went on to discuss the cellphone’s most frequent contacts, as the prosecution had argued that the most common contact was with a number used by Sabra’s father, Hasan Taan Sabra. One of Young’s primary arguments involved the existence of a subscriber note for a different phone in the name of Hassan Taan Sabra.

Young suggested to Donaldson that this evidence tying the different phone to Hassan Taan Sabra negated the possibility of him being the user of the phone frequently contacted by the phone attributed to Assad Sabra. Donaldson, however, dismissed this argument, stating that Hassan Taan Sabra may have owned the phone cited by Young, but there might be multiple people in Beirut with this name.

Furthermore, it was noted that the address on the subscriber note was not the one in Baabdat tied to the suspect. Donaldson said it was “totally different from the one provided by [Assad Sabra’s father].” Young failed to dissuade Donaldson of his previous argument; the latter said, “I have given my evidence, and I have made a reasonable inference.”

Tuesday’s session also highlighted some of the procedural difficulties that can occur with a tribunal of this scale. Prior to the session, Sabra’s defense team had submitted an application to effectively allow the various defense teams to cross-examine Donaldson interchangeably. President of the Trial Chamber Judge David Re expressed surprise at the application, reminding Young that he had previously said “cross-examination is not a tap that we can turn on and off.”

The other defense teams were also not supportive of the suggestion. Hassan Merhi’s team, for example, noted that they did not want any “overlap” during their cross-examination of the prosecution witness.

The STL continues Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 27, 2017, on page 2.




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