Firefighter, victim's brother testify at Lebanon tribunal

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Updated 5:25 pm: A veteran Beirut firefighter testified for the second consecutive day before The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Tuesday in a trial over the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Khaled Toubaili, a retired officer from the Beirut fire brigade who led a team of firefighters to the site of the February 14 downtown blast, repeated statements made the previous day in which he described "horrifying" scenes of destruction not witnessed in his 38 years on the job.

The blast, which killed 22 people including Hariri, occurred just outside the Saint George Hotel, leaving a massive crater in the street and destroying vehicles in the vicinity.

Later in the court session a relative of one of the victims also provided testimony.

Toubaili estimated that 70 - 80 firefighters from Beirut's three sectors took part in the effort to extinguish the flames that had engulfed the area.

He explained that rescue teams were divided between the northern and southern parts of the blast site, and that debris and burning vehicles prevented anyone from crossing between them while the fires were still raging.

An image shown to the court on January 28, 2014 shows a crate cause by the blast that killed 22 people on February 14, 2005.

When asked if he witnessed any bodies being pulled from vehicles, Toubaili said that he had not, as most of the blast's victims were located on the southern side, and he was working in the northern section.

A second witness gave short testimony later in the day via video link. The image was distorted to conceal his identity.

He told the court that his brother was one of the 22 victims killed in the blast, and that his family suffers to this day from the tragedy, especially his mother who requires treatment for an illness related to losing her son.

Those questioning him were careful not to ask anything that might reveal his identity. But the witness said his brother was about 26 or 27 when he died, and that he was engaged.

Prosecutors are trying four Hezbollah members in absentia over Hariri's assassination. A fifth suspected has also been indicted and is expected to have his cased joined with the other.

Hezbollah has vehemently denied any involvement in the attack, accusing the STL of being a US-Israeli tool set up to discredit the group.

Tuesday's session was the eighth day of the trial, and the fifth to hear witness testimonies. Last week the court listened to family members of some of the victims describe losing their relatives in sometimes emotionally charged accounts.

No more witnesses will be heard this week, and Wednesday's session will focus on "procedural matters," the STL said on its Twitter account.

(Al-Akhbar)

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