Jan 22, 2014

Examination-in-chief of first OTP witnesses

The Prosecution Senior Trial Counsel Alexander Milne started today with the examination-in-chief of its first witnesses. The first two witnesses on the stand were brothers of two of Rafik Hariri's bodyguards who both died in the 14 February 2005 attack in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Prosecution's evidence will be divided in three parts; the first part will relate to the events on 14 February 2005. The second part will relate to the telecommunication evidence with respect to the preparation and falsely attributing of the crime, and the third part will relate to the telecommunication evidence and the responsibility of the accused persons.

Today's first two witnesses, Abdul Qader Darwish and Mamdouh Mohammed Tarraf, gave testimony in relation to their personal experiences on 14 February 2005 when their respective brothers, Mohammed Darwish and Ziad Tarraf, were killed. The witnesses gave short testimonies about the effect the attack had had on their respective families and themselves.

The content of their statements was uncontroversial and the Defence decided not to cross-examine them. Presumably, there was nothing to gain for the Defence in cross-examining them as their story was very personal and undoubtedly truthful. I imagine that the Defence's strategy is not to discredit the factual Prosecution witnesses. Given that counsel for the Defence are not in contact with their clients, as this is an in absentia trial, they do not receive instructions from their clients. As the Prosecution case will unfold, it will be interesting to see how this will affect the Defence counsel's strategies in dealing with the Prosecution evidence to be presented at trial.

The third witness on the stand was Robyn Fraser, a former investigator for the Tribunal's Office of the Prosecutor between 2009 and 2011. In that capacity, she investigated and drafted a report on the surveillance camera footage in and near the Suleiman Franjieh tunnel close to the location where Hariri and his bodyguards were assassinated. The footage shown by the Prosecution to the expert witness focused on a white lorry, presumed to be the Mitsubishi van that carried the explosives to the site of the attack.

Ms. Fraser indicated that the time stamps on the footage of the cameras was not accurate, and that she was not able to explain the discrepancies, though she indicated that the stamps could be placed manually.

The witness's evidence further indicated that the van drove through the tunnel about an hour before the attack (time of the attack was 12:55 pm), and about an hour later the same camera located the van again, where it drove in the direction of the location where the attack would take place.

This witness will continue her evidence tomorrow, Thursday 23 January.

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