May 13, 2014

Initial appearances in STL contempt cases against two journalists and two media companies

The hearing started in the morning with the initial appearances in the first contempt case, that is the case against NEW TV S.A.L. (Al Jadeed TV, represented by Mr. Khodr) and the case against Ms. Khayat, Al Jadeed’s Deputy Head of News. Both accused were present and will be represented by Mr. Khan and his legal team. After the indictment was read out, both entered a plea of not-guilty.

Subsequently Contempt Judge Lettieri gave various orders to ensure that the accused and its defence team will not disclose confidential material disclosed to them, as requested by the amicus curiae prosecutor through a written motion (click here for this motion). Further, Judge Lettieri set deadlines for disclosures pursuant to Rule 110, and reminded the prosecutor of its obligation under Rule 113 to disclose exculpatory material to the defence. The prosecutor indicated that Rule 110(A)(i) material will be disclosed by tomorrow, and Rule 110 A(ii) material by 30 May, as ordered by the Contempt Judge. Further, preliminary motions pursuant to Rule 90 have to be filed by 16 June, including challenges of the indictment; the prosecution has to submit a proposal on the further planning of the trial by 20 May.

Judge Lettieri also invited third parties to submit amicus curiae briefs on the jurisdiction of the STL, with a deadline of 30 May (parties may respond by 11 June). These briefs will almost certainly address the issue of jurisdiction over corporate entities, a novel and contested issue in international criminal law. At the request of the defence, the prosecutor will have to submit a clarification as to the indicted company (NEW TV S.A.L. or Al Jadeed TV) within 7 days. Another request by the defence for hard copies will be decided upon in due course.

During the afternoon session the initial appearances in the case against newspaper Al Akhbar and Mr. Al Amin, its editor-in-chief, were scheduled. However, Mr. Al Amin did not appear in court nor was he represented through counsel. Judge Lettieri read out parts of a letter sent to the Registry of the STL, through which Mr. Al Amin requested a postponement of the trial because, amongst others, he had not been able yet to select counsel and prepare for his defence. The Registry gave further details about its communications with Mr. Al Amin, who, it appeared, has attempted to contact the Registry on numerous occasions over the course of last week. The Head of the Defence Office, Mr. Roux, pointed to the rights of the defence and the time needed to assemble a defence team. Mr. Roux has been in contact with an attorney that has represented Mr. Al Amin before in other matters. Judge Lettieri granted the request for postponement, and a further hearing will be held on 29 May. Mr. Al Amin can appear by video-link if a lawyer is present in court.

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