Lebanon News

STL calls for written acquittal submissions

BEIRUT: After two days of unsatisfactory oral submissions on the possible acquittal of Hassan Oneissi at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Trial Chamber President Judge David Re requested Thursday that both defense and prosecution teams provide written submissions. Re expressed frustration that Oneissi’s defense lawyer, Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, was unable to attend Thursday’s hearing, having returned to Paris for a prior engagement. Re said Courcelle-Labrousse had previously indicated that he would be available for hearings later this week to resolve the question of Oneissi’s application for acquittal.

Oneissi is one of four people indicted for complicity in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

Following the conclusion of the prosecution’s case earlier this month, defense teams are all entitled to make an application for acquittal.

They were instructed to prove that the prosecution failed to present enough evidence for the court to consider the case, rather than criticize the value of the evidence itself.

Only Oneissi’s team has so far made a formal application for acquittal, although at the close of the prosecution’s case, co-counsel for defendantSalim Ayyash said the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence to convict him.

“It’s very important the chamber receives more precise written submissions on the sufficiency or insufficiency of the evidence,” Re said.

“A lot of the defense submissions went to ... issues of weight and credibility, which are not relevant at this stage of the proceedings.”

The judge noted that Courcelle-Labrousse had spent much of the past two days’ hearings discussing the value that should be attached to, for example, cell phone evidence.

“Counsel must refer to and analyze the existence or nonexistence of the evidence ... and must not refer to the weight or credibility [of the evidence],” he said.

As a result, he requested that submissions, of no more than ten pages, be provided in bullet-point format, adding that while the defense lawyer “has a very specific style of advocacy, and some of it is quite dramatic,” he was still uncertain of the principal arguments made by Oneissi’s team.

The Trial Chamber had also requested the prosecution respond to the Ayyash team’s claim that insufficient evidence had been provided by the prosecution.

Alexander Milne, counsel for the prosecution, gave oral submissions at the end of Thursday’s hearing, detailing the extent of the cell phone evidence against Ayyash, saying that his phone usage showed “contact with family members, acquaintances, and associates. We have documentary evidence proving the attribution of these to Salim Ayyash.”

Milne also alleged Ayyash purchased the truck used to carry out the bombing, which was filled with 2,000 kilos of TNT.

The Trial Chamber requested written submissions from all parties clarifying the issue of complicity, as defined in Article 219 of the Lebanese Criminal Code, which had been discussed by Courcelle-Labrousse in his previous days’ submissions.

The deadline for the written submissions was set for Feb. 27, after which the Trial Chamber will give its decision on the acquittals of Oneissi and Ayyash.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 23, 2018, on page 3.

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