Jun 18, 2014

Prosecution's case against Mr Merhi

Today the proceedings at the Lebanon Tribunal were all about the case against the accused Mr Merhi. Mr Merhi is alleged to have been part of the same conspiracy as the other accused in the case against Ayyash et al. As the joinder of Mr Merhi has taken place after the commencement of trial, the Prosecution gave an opening statement exclusively dealing with its case against Mr Merhi (click here and here for the transcripts of the initial opening statement of the Prosecution given in January). During the proceedings, one victim was present in the courtroom, the wife of the late Mr Fuleihan, who was part of the convoy that included Hariri, and who died because of severe burning injuries caused by the explosion.

The Prosecution started its opening statement by discussing the bomb explosion that killed Hariri and other members of his convoy, at the same time killing and injuring many bystanders. In the coming weeks, the Prosecution will call further forensic and DNA experts dealing with the explosion and its consequences.

The Prosecution subsequently focused on the anticipated evidence that is most related to Mr Merhi. According to the Prosecution’s case, four vital tasks were required for the completion of the conspiracy aimed at committing the terrorist act that killed Hariri: (i) identifying the location where the explosion should be detonated; (ii) gathering information about Hariri’s movement; (iii) preparing the bomb; and (iv) creating the false claim of responsibility for the attack. The nature of the conspiracy was sufficiently complex to require a division of labour and a hierarchy in its membership, and extensive and coordinated preparation was needed for this attack, so the Prosecution claims.

Mr Merhi played a significant and leading role in this operation, although it's the Prosecution's case that Mr Badreddine coordinated Mr Ayyash and Mr Merhi. Mr Merhi was only responsible for the fourth task (the false claim of responsibility), which included identifying a candidate for the false claim, befriending the potential candidate Mr Abu Adass and luring him away from his family, preparing a tape and a letter with the false claim and providing these to the Lebanese media after the attack.

For the time period from 1 October 2004 until 14 February 2005, the Prosecution has divided the conspiracy into five phases; the following slide shows Merhi’s responsibilities in these phases:

The Prosecution then explained the relevance of the data on phone networks - the main evidence that is linking the accused to the bomb explosion – for the Merhi case: Mr Merhi had two different phones that can be used to connect him to the conspiracy: Green 071 (from 24 September 2004 until 7 February 2005) and Purple 231 (from 19 December 2004 until 14 February 2005). Mr Merhi is connected to Mr Badreddine and Mr Ayyash through the green phone network, and to Mr Sabra and Mr Oneissi through the purple phone network. The specific characteristics of these phone networks or groups, who communicated through these phones, and where and when these phones went - this is all important for the Prosecution’s case that with the use of these phones the conspiracy was organised. See the following slide used during the Prosecution’s presentation, which contains the distinctive features of the green phone network.

The Prosecution continued to provide extensive detail about the phone data evidence it will present to prove that Mr Merhi, Mr Sabra, and Mr Oneissi cooperated as a team in arranging the abduction of Mr Abu Adass, the preparation of the false claim, and the spreading of the false claim through the media. This included a number of maps showing the locations of phone calls by the green and purple phone networks, from which according to the Prosecution the involvement of these phones, and thus the accused, in the conspiracy can be inferred.

As a last important aspect of the case against Mr Merhi (and the other accused for that matter), the Prosecution shortly discussed how these phones can be attributed to Mr Merhi. Again this will need to be inferred, this time from a comparison in the characteristics and locations of phones purple 231 and green 071 with a phone that can be directly connected to the Merhi family through official documentation, including a tax form submitted by Mr Merhi. Finally, the Prosecution describes Mr Merhi as a ‘grey man’ with a family with five children but no recorded employment, who does most of his payments in cash. This would also confirm the Prosecution’s theory on the criminal activities of Mr Merhi. Tomorrow we will hear what the Defence for Mr Merhi has to say in response.

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