With the opening statement of the Prosecution in relation to the accused Merhi scheduled for this Wednesday, today a pre-trial conference was held to discuss the procedural aspects of the resumption of trial. Because of the joinder with the case against the accused Merhi, no evidence has been called in the Ayyash case since February of this year. Scheduling issues were the main topic of today’s conference. After the Prosecution’s opening statement this Wednesday, the Defence for Merhi will give its opening statement on Thursday.
The first witness after the resumption of trial is scheduled to appear next week, on Tuesday 24 June. However, in relation to many of the witnesses to be called in the coming weeks, it remains unsure whether the Prosecution will be able to arrange their presence in the courtroom in Leidschendam. Therefore, it is to be expected that most of them will testify via video-conference link. Further, the Merhi Defence is still opposing the calling of a number of Prosecution expert witnesses at this stage of the proceedings, as its defence experts have not yet finished their analyses.
Other issues discussed were (i) upcoming guidelines on the inspection of exhibits by the parties, including the need to request prior authorisation from the Chamber by parties wishing to unseal or remove exhibits; and (ii) on-going problems regarding the cooperation between the government of Lebanon and the defence teams that are seeking to obtain specific documentation.
After several of these procedural hearings in the last few months, with the opening statements of Wednesday and Thursday, the Lebanon Tribunal will finally return to the substance of its main case.