Jan 11, 2016

A large amount of documentary evidence presented in court (June-November 2015)

During various trial dates in the second half of 2015 the Prosecution presented documentary evidence that has been tendered into evidence by Trial Chamber’s decisions, including lengthy explanations of its relevance. This is a very time consuming process, and although it seems to be directed at making available evidence to the public, it would be a lot more effective to give the public access to these exhibits, and explain the relevance in a (bar table) motion, a well-established practice at the ICTY for example. Now many days in court are used to discuss things which could easily be dealt with in written form. Further, this way of summarising evidence in court gives the Prosecution a lot of time and space to make submission about its case and its interpretation of the evidence, to which the Defence rightly objected (see the transcript of 5 November). The Defence argued that the judges should evaluate all evidence at the end of the trial instead of being influenced by the Prosecution’s interpretation during trial. Also, this affects the expediency of the trial. The Defence indicated that they will put their objections in written form; this will be an interesting discussion to follow. Judge Re explained that the reason they were spending so much time in court on presenting exhibits is to publicly show the evidence they’re receiving, and that the amount of time spend on this matter will depend on the availability of witnesses.

Below a summary of the documentary evidence presented in the period June-November 2015.

On 18 June 2015, the Prosecution presented 10 mobile phone contracts relating to nine blue phones and one yellow phone (see also our blog of 13 July). According to the Prosecution these phones were purchased anonymously, sometimes with false documents; other times the shop owners recycled people's IDs to protect the identities of the phone users, because these phones were used to provide a support role for the planning and execution of the bomb attack of 14 February 2005. The evidence from the contracts is linked to the statements or testimony of various Prosecution witnesses, who deny having bought these mobile phones. On 27 August 2015 the Prosecution presented the summaries of witness statements on this issue, including subscribers of telephone lines that according to the Prosecution have been used by the accused in the planning and execution of the attack on 14 February 2005. The witnesses however deny having bought these SIM cards, and point out the many mistakes on the subscription forms. There are also witness statements about the import and distribution of handsets and SIM cards to the various shops that eventually sold the handsets and lines used by the various networks.

On 18 June 2015 the Prosecution also dealt with part of 99 business records from mobile phone companies, one group relating to red phones and another two groups relating to green phones. These documents show the delivery of SIM cards to specific dealers, the origin of the phones and how the phones were paid for.

On 22 July 2015, the Prosecution presented 262 United Nations Information Centre Beirut Press Reviews which are relevant to the movement of Rafik Hariri and political events, including the political climate in the months leading up to the resignation and assassination of the former prime minister. Further, 11 exit and entry records of Beirut airport of Hariri in the period 16 December 2004 - 7 February 2005 were tendered into evidence. This evidence is also related to the political witnesses who testified earlier in 2015.

On 23 July 2015 the Prosecution presented 11 other documents tendered into evidence, including a phone directory of the Quraitem palace, various passports of Hariri, photographs, copies of newspaper clippings, decrees, parliamentary meeting notes and UN documents in relation to Lebanon. This evidence is partly relevant to show the movement of Hariri in relation to the surveillance with the network phones allegedly done by the accused. There also documents that list the addresses of the telephone boots, and the telephone cards, that were used to call Al-Jazeera and Reuters to make the false claim of responsibility for the attack.

On 5 October the Prosecution presented a summary of a witness statement of an injured victim of the bomb attack. Further, the Prosecution presented photographs of various areas in Beirut, including photographs in and around Nejmeh Place and parliament, and photographs of various points along a route that would commonly be taken and expected to be taken by the Prime Minister on his way to his villa in Faqra. This includes a ramp that according to the Prosecution was one of the places considered by the accused as an assassination site. This can be concluded from various factors including the activity and interest that the users of the red phones had in that particular location on a number of days. The Prosecution further explains that in its view there is a connection between the times that the network phones are present in the Faraya area, and the presence of the Prime Minister in December 2004.

During part of the hearings held on 14-16 October the Prosecution summarised tendered documents relating to two properties associated with the accused Ayyash (in South Beirut and in the Nabatiyeh region), one property associated with Mr Oneissi, two properties associated with Mr Merhi and two properties associated with Mr Sabra. These include financial and legal documents, and witness statements. The Prosecution asserts that the locations of phones used by the accused, and the patterns of use, can be linked to the residences of the accused. In addition, some of the documents filled out by Mr Oneissi in relation to his property contain the phone number that is part of the purple phone network.

On 4 (and 12) November the Prosecution read out the summary of witness PRH078, who had in his business computer records the name of a relative of the accused Mr Ayyash, together with two contact numbers, and the date of her visit to the witness’ business. The Prosecution attributes these two phone numbers to Mr Ayyash. The Prosecution also read out the summary of a tendered statement by Prosecution investigator Toby Smith, who conducted the interview with witness PRH078 and marked the location of the witness’ office. The Prosecution uses this location to show that the two telephones of Mr Ayyash connect to specific cell towers in the neighbourhood on the days of the visits of the relative of Mr Ayyash to the witness’ office. On 12 November the Prosecution read out the summary of witness PRH678, a relative of PRH078 who confirmed his statement.

On 4 November the Prosecution summarised the documentary evidence relating to the delivery of household furniture to the Merhi family between 21 and 26 November 2004, which involved the use of the Merhi family phone and a personal phone of the accused Mr Merhi, Purple 231. The evidence includes subscriber notes for the various phones used in this delivery of furniture, extracts from a customer database, an ID application by Mr Merhi, and witness statements by an employee of the furniture manufacturer and supplier (PRH675), an OTP analyst (Adrian Kirwan) and two OTP investigators (PRH539 and Toby Smith) about the origin of (some of these) documents. The furniture wholesaler is witness PRH651 who gave evidence on 2 October 2015. On 9 November the Prosecution read out summaries of further witness statements in relation to this issue. Witness Kamal Ismail (PRH645) is the owner of a retail furniture business called Ismail Furniture in South Beirut, and was in contact with the Merhi family through a mobile number. Witness PRH650 is a delivery driver for the furniture wholesaler from which Mr Merhi made a purchase. The witness was shown copies of documentation relating to a delivery on 26 November 2004 and recognised his handwriting and initials. PRH650 further identified mobile phone numbers of the company. Witness PRH649 is another delivery driver for the furniture wholesaler and gave a similar statement to witenss PRH650. According to the Prosecution this evidence assists in attributing phone Purple 231 to the accused Mr Merhi.

On 5 November the Prosecution continued with summarising 37 documents relating to various insurance claims by Mr Ayyash for his motor vehicle. These claims were made in October 2003, November 2004 and May 2005, and are relevant for the attribution of two phone numbers to Mr Ayyash. On 6 November the Prosecution read out the summaries of six witness statements. Witnesses Ghassan Saab and Maria Frangieh work for a Lebanese insurance company and gave evidence about the provenance of the insurance documents. Also Prosecution investigator Mr Karnberger gave a statement about this issue. Witness PRH050 met the accused Mr Ayyash in 1996 and 1997, and once or twice a year occasionally, also on the street; Mr Ayyash had a small scooter, worked for civil defence and was a car dealer. The witness also knows some of the family members of Mr Ayyash and identifies some their telephone numbers. Witness PRH086 was a tow truck driver who transported vehicles involved in accidents, although he did not recall the specific accident in November 2004 (for which Mr Ayyash filed an insurance claim). Witness PRH539, a Prosecution investigator, gave a statement about his contact with Mr Al-Kalash, the author of a report dealing with the car accident of November 2004.

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