On 14-16 July another two witnesses testified before the STL about the allegedly false claim of responsibility. The first witness was an employee of Reuters News Agency and received a telephone call claiming responsibility on the day of the attack. The second witness is Matthew Barrington, an analyst working for the STL Prosecution, who reviewed the tape with video footage from Al-Jazeera of 14 February 2005.
Employee of Reuters in Beirut (14 July)
Witness PRH012, testifying with protective measures, worked for Reuters News Agency in Beirut in February 2005. The day of the assassination the witness was working at her office, and after the explosion occurred, she decided to visit the crime scene with a colleague. They hailed a taxi which took them close to the event, as at the scene of explosion cars were still exploding. There were still flames and people were trying to save the injured and victims.
As soon as the witness heard that the target was Hariri’s convoy, the witness went back to the office and watched the details of the event on the news; then the phone rang. The witness picked up and a man told her to keep quiet and write down a statement, which included the words: “We are El-Nusra-wal-Jihad group in Greater Syria. We announce and claim our responsibility for killing this criminal, Rafik Hariri, this infidel.’’ The caller concluded by saying a Quranic verse. He had an authoritative voice, speaking classic Arabic with an unnatural and unusual accent, exaggerating for example the pronunciation of the J. It wasn’t a Lebanese accent. If the accused Sabra and/or Oneissi will ever appear and speak before the Tribunal, it would be very interesting to compare their accents and/or dialects to the evidence given by this and other witnesses. For the moment, the Prosecution’s indictment reveals that both accused are claimed to be Lebanese citizens born in Beirut.
After receiving the call she immediately went to see her supervisor who told her that they should not give such phone calls any importance because they seem to be unreliable. Reuters did not broadcast or report the news based on the phone call they received. However, after they saw the declaration at Al-Jazeera, they reported the news based on what Al-Jazeera had broadcast. The witness explained that the content was similar, even though the wording was different. The Prosecution tendered the call sequence table of the public phone number of Reuters that was used for the claim of responsibility; 110 calls were made to this phone number on 14 February 2005.
Mr Haynes, the legal representative of the victims, questioned the witness about civilians who were trying to reach the centre of the blast in order to rescue the victims. Mr Mettraux, defence counsel appearing on behalf of the accused Sabra, questioned the witness about the fact that, although they had not informed the Lebanese authorities about this call, she was interrogated about this call by the Lebanese security services. She also further clarified that the man who called Reuters might have called the administration and asked to speak to the editorial desk, and the call had then been transferred to them.
OTP analyst Matthew Barrington (15-16 July)
Mr Matthew Barrington is an analyst working for the Office of the Prosecutor. He has analysed the video footage from Al-Jazeera of 14 February 2005. The purpose of this review was to determine, as far as possible, the times when the events on the tape occurred, and thus (or at least so it seems) the timing of the phone calls with the claim of responsibility. The witness prepared a chart of the timing of the events on the tape.
In cross-examination defence counsel Mr Mettraux challenges the witness' findings as to the timing of the events on the tape. The Defence takes the position that in fact Mr Barrington could not in any way verify the times that he asserts from an analytical point of view. The witness explains that this was an ad hoc task that he was approached with and was asked to complete. He did not know the background or the investigative avenues that were being pursued by the investigative team at the time. The witness further states that he was unaware of the fact that the footage received from Al-Jazeera was only four hours instead of the unabridged twelve hours that the Prosecution had asked for. Further, the witness was confronted with the fact that another analyst of the Prosecution had concluded that "The footage examined did not contain any material which could assist in determining the exact broadcast time of either news of the claim of responsibility or the confessional tape." The witness confirmed that whilst this person was unable to put times on these events, he was able to do so. When further asked about the methods he used in establishing the timing of the events on the tape - using a particular video-clip to estimate the timing of both the claim of responsibility and the confirmation of Hariri's death - the witness confirms that his conclusions are based on quite a few uncertain assumptions.