Lebanon News

Investigation biased: STL defense counsel

An exterior view of the court building that hosts STL in Leidschendam, Netherlands, Tuesday Feb. 24, 2009. (AP Photo/ Bas Czerwinski)

BEIRUT: Defense Counsel David Young concluded his nine-day cross-examination of prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson Friday, suggesting that the latter’s attribution reports were based upon compromised material. During his conclusion, Young said the information passed from the Lebanese International Security Forces to the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission was biased.

He argued that the ISF Information Branch head Maj. Brig. Wissam al-Hassan had tainted the credibility of the local investigation due to a controversy possibly linking him to the conspiracy.

Donaldson at the time was working for the UNIIIC.

In the early sessions of the hearing, Young argued that the UNIIIC failed to thoroughly verify cellular information from the ISF. Specifically, he cited “Purple 018” a cellphone allegedly connected to Assad Sabra, Young’s client.

Young pointed out that two spellings of the name “Assad” were referenced in text messages sent to Purple 018. The investigation, however, had not clearly looked into whether the two spellings referenced separate individuals.

Donaldson, the author of several attribution reports, admitted to conflating the two spellings to one person, citing ignorance. Nevertheless, he firmly reiterated that the error did not affect his conclusions.

“Independent investigation was completed and that evidence, in my opinion, incriminated Mr. Sabra as the user of [Purple 018]. I have seen no other evidence showing alternate users,” Donaldson said.

The defense counsel then targeted the entire investigation, accusing the UNIIIC of knowingly working with inaccurate information.

Drawing upon UNIIIC memos, Young presented information showing that the investigation team was aware that Maj. Brig. Hassan was a controversial figure.

The ISF head was appointed to lead the newly created Information Division following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Its immediate responsibility was to investigate the bombing. Prior to Hassan’s ISF role, he served as the head of the former prime minister’s security detail.

On the day of the attack, Hassan was not on duty, reportedly so that he could study for an exam. While his alibi was not iron-clad, the ISF head was never investigated.

In 2012, Hassan was assassinated by a car bomb that exploded in the Ashrafieh area of Beirut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 30, 2017, on page 2.




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