Lebanon News

Expert affirms criticism of witness selection

BEIRUT: Defense expert Dr. Siegfried Sporer’s testimony before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon concluded Wednesday, with Sporer standing by his criticism of how the prosecutor undertook witness identification. “I would have never conducted a study like this,” Sporer said. “If my student was doing a research project [similar to this] I would have fired him. ... It has absolutely no scientific value.”

It took two and a half days for Sporer, a lecturer in forensic and criminal psychology at the University of Giessen, to give the testimony, in what was at times a tense exchange between Trial Chamber President Judge David Re and Defense Counsel Natalie von Wistinghausen over the precise manner and duration of the defense counsel’s examination.

Wistinghausen represents Hassan Oneissi, one of four indicted over the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Re said after Sporer’s testimony, “Whatever may have been said in the courtroom you know we have a level of professional respect for you and your team.”

The witness cross-examination by Prosecution Counsel Marc Desalliers took just over one session, who sought to cast doubt over Sporer’s suitability to stand as a witness, forcing Sporer to concede he had not personally undertaken any investigations similar to that of the STL.

The prosecution counsel picked on Sporer’s testimony of the previous day, in which he had said placing photos of suspects in the middle of an identification board means a witness is more likely to choose them. “You’re not suggesting that putting pictures towards the middle ... would invalidate the results?” Desalliers asked. While not outright contradicting him, the expert said, “it increases the likelihood of false identification by a factor of two.”

The next session of the STL will take place once the Oneissi defense has submitted a summary of facts for its next witness, the deadline for which is May 28.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 17, 2018, on page 3.

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