Feb 23, 2016

On 24 February second contempt case against journalist and media company will start

On 8 September 2015 the contempt judge at the STL issued a verdict in the first contempt case at that tribunal. In this much-debated case, Al Jadeed TV broadcasting corporation and its deputy head of news, Ms Al Khayat, were charged with two counts of contempt of court. The television station produced a series of episodes on supposed witnesses of the tribunal. The two accused were charged with publishing information on purported confidential witnesses in the main case, thereby undermining public confidence in the STL’s ability to protect the confidentiality of information about, or provided by, (potential) witnesses. Al Jadeed TV and Ms Al Khayat were also charged with failure to comply with a court order to remove that particular information from Al Jadeed's website and its YouTube Channel. Al Jadeed TV was acquitted on both counts; Ms. Al Khayat was found guilty on the second count and sentenced to pay a fine of 10,000 euro. Appeal is still pending in this case. See our blog on International Justice Monitor for a commentary on the judgement. We've also published an article on the relationship between freedom of speech and the prosecution of journalists at the STL in the International Crimes Database of the Asser Institute.

[screenshot of Contempt Judge Lettieri in court - 18 September 2015]

On 24 February the second contempt case against another Lebanese journalist and medial company will start. In this second case, similar charges have been brought against Lebanese newspaper Akhbar Beirut and its editor-in-chief Mr. Al Amin. On 11 December 2015 a Pre-Trial Conference was held. The Amicus Curiae Prosecutor requested a postponement of the proceedings to await the outcome of the appeal pending in the first contempt case. This request for postponement was dismissed in a written decision of 18 December 2015. Further, the Amicus Curiae Prosecutor requested an amendment of the indictment, witness list and exhibit list, which requests were partly granted by the Contempt Judge (click here for the written decision allowing an amendment of the witness and exhibit list, and here for the decision denying an amendment of the indictment).

Further, during the Pre-Trial Conference the representation of the accused was discussed, as the accused refuse to participate in the proceedings. Mr Abou Kasm has been assigned by the Defence office to defend their rights and interests (see also our interview with him). Mr Abou Kasm requested the trial to be classified as a trial in absentia, which will allow the accused to have a retrial. Judge Letterie denied this request as the accused have appeared in court and subsequently refused to participate. The Prosecution takes the position that the accused Mr Al Amin should be summoned to appear in court, with a failure to appear leading to an arrest warrant.

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