Salem Diab gave evidence on 22-23 January and 3 February 2015. He is a businessman and owner of a long-established company in Lebanon, the Abdul-Rahim Diab establishment. The witness met Hariri for the first time in 1979 in Riyadh, and they became friends. Every time Hariri was in Beirut, they would meet. In 1996 Hariri wanted to have on his list some persons from well-known families from Beirut, including Mr Diab, but Syria opposed his candidature. Instead Mr Diab became the manager for the election campaign of Hariri, first for all kind of elections and subsequently for the campaign for the prime minister. This was a very big machine, more than 3000 people were working for him. Further, Salem Diab was the president of the Beirut Welfare Association (Tanmiya) providing schooling and medical assistance, which was funded by Hariri.
[screenshot of Mr Diab during his testimony on 23 January 2015]
From 2004 onwards Salem Diab spoke with Hariri on a daily basis. The witness did not discuss with Hariri the relationship he had with the Syrians, but Hariri did not want pro-Syrian candidates on the list. Salem Diab heard afterwards about a meeting between Hariri and Assad in 2004, in which Assad told Hariri that he would break Lebanon over his head if Hariri did not accept his offer. Also, Mr El-Hassan and Bassel Fuleihan told the witness that during a meeting between Hariri and Assad, Mr Ghazaleh had a gun in his hand.
Further, the witness explains the chances of Hariri in the elections, the big role of politics in Lebanese society, and the allegations that Hariri was buying votes. The witness denies this, although Hariri used to distribute food to poor people, and he explains what happened when Hariri wanted to help because there was a shortage in olive oil, but this had nothing to do with the political campaign according to the witness. Mr Diab continues his testimony with a description of the lunches that took place at the Quraitem Palace, with influential people coming over every week on Tuesdays and Fridays. However, the week before his death Hariri was nervous, although Hariri said that 'no one dares to get in any way nearer to me or closer to me'.
The Defence extensively cross-examines Mr Diab about the contradictions in his previous statements in 2005 and 2006, especially in relation to a person that returned to the crime scene after the explosion to remove the motorcade vehicles and/or jammers, an important issue for the Defence as this potentially shows that the crime scene had been altered. The judges also have follow up questions about this issue. Mr. Diab is also asked about several names on a list, which are however revealed from the public. Further, he is asked about his relationship with Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Al and Mr Mustafa Hamdan, a general and head of the Lebanese Presidential Guard Brigade, and a close aide of President Emile Lahoud. About the close relationship between Al-Ahbash and the Syrian security forces, Mr Diab states that this was ‘common knowledge’. Further, the Defence asks questions about the threats Mr Diab had to undergo.
The day after the testimony of Mr Diab, the Prosecution read summaries of witness statements into the evidence, all Tripoli citizens who had purchased SIM cards in early 2005. According to the Prosecution, the accused used the identities of these citizens to purchase cellphone SIM cards.