Lebanon News

STL defense counsel flies through cross-examination

BEIRUT: The defense counsel raced to finish cross-examining prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson Wednesday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, questioning the witness on attributions of phone numbers to Assad Sabra. Defense Counsel David Young has attempted to distance Sabra from attribution reports authored by Donaldson that link him to several incriminating cell phones allegedly used in the plot to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Throughout Wednesday’s session, the defense counsel picked up the speed of his examination, burning through questions on numerous cellphone numbers both related directly to Sabra and to “third-party contacts” – people who contacted Sabra’s alleged devices.

Young remarked that one cellphone number, dubbed “675” – a third-party contact – had been used on 32 separate handsets between the two-year period of September 2004 and December 2006. Young proceeded to question Donaldson on whether this signaled that the device was possibly used by several people.

“If in those two years, there were 32 handsets used. Would that possibly indicate multiuser use versus someone upgrading their own phone?” Young asked.

Donaldson refuted implications that it was out of the ordinary.

“Not necessarily,” he said. “Thirty-two is quite low compared to some [numbers] I’ve seen. Once I saw 200 handsets in a year, and we eventually figured out it was rented SIM cards. But sometimes we see a larger number of handsets and are able to work out that people working at phone shops ... [test] phones.”

“Context is required,” he added.

Like 675, the majority of phones discussed throughout Wednesday’s session were not directly related to the accused, Sabra.

However, the importance of such phones is not any less critical than those directly used by Sabra and the other indicted suspects. The defendants are all being tried in absentia, forcing the prosecution to make their case based upon cellular records pertaining to broad networks of people connected to the four men.

Without clients to refute allegations made by the prosecution, the defense has also relied on finding discrepancies in the opposing party’s data-based case.

The majority of Wednesday’s hearing continued along the same lines, with the defense counsel briefly questioning Donaldson about a device before submitting various documents into evidence before the trial chamber.

Along with contact profiles, the defense counsel interrogated Donaldson on the accuracy of geographic and subscription profiles for various phones.

The rapid-fire nature of Young’s cross-examination Wednesday was potentially due to the fact that the defense counsel had repeatedly told the court Young would finish before the end of the day.

Nonetheless, he was unable to finish and is expected to close his cross-examination during Thursday’s hearing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 28, 2017, on page 2.




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