Special Tribunal for Lebanon Refuses to Declassify Al-Akhbar Indictment
Published Friday, February 20, 2015
While the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigates the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, it continues to pursue a policy of secrecy in its public hearings. Now, its President David Baragwanath has stepped down to be succeeded by Judge Ivana Hrdlickova of the Czech Republic.
The STL’s Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri has refused a request by Antonios Abou Kasm, the lawyer appointed by the tribunal to defend Al-Akhbar CEO Ibrahim al-Amin, asking the prosecution to hand over the indictment files against Amin and Al-Akhbar in the contempt case brought against them by the STL. Abou Kasm’s request was made as the spring hearing set for Amin and Al-Akhbar approaches.
Abu Kasm asked the STL to hand over the classified files via the STL’s office in Beirut, or the judge, so the defense can examine them. Judge Littieri, however, refused the request two days ago, saying that it is the defense lawyer’s duty to deliver the files to the defendant, at a time when there is no communication between Abu Kasm and Amin or Al-Akhbar, as the latter rejected the STL’s decision to appoint Abu Kasm as their defense lawyer.
Meanwhile, Al-Akhbar has learned that the former director general of the Internal Security Forces, Major-General Ali Hajj, sent three letters to the court, requesting copies of the statements made by witnesses who mentioned him during their testimonies, in the past as well as during recent hearings. According to available information, Hajj’s letters stressed that what the witnesses said in recent hearings “were political positions unrelated to the crime.”
At the STL, the judges of the Appeals Chamber elected Judge Hrdlickova as STL president succeeding Judge Sir David Baragwanath of New Zealand, who has served as STL president since October 2011. According to an STL statement, the judges re-elected Judge Ralph Riachi as vice president.
The statement said that Hrdlickova was elected for a period of 18 months, starting March 1, 2015. The election of the president and the vice president is in accordance with Article 8(2) of the STL Statute and Rule 31 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Judge Baragwanath will continue to serve as an Appeals Chamber Judge.
The STL statement said, “Judge Hrdlickova began her career as a judge in 1990 and has presided over both civil and criminal cases.” She holds a Ph.D. from the law faculty of Charles University in Prague in Shariah law and speaks Arabic. She was appointed an Appeals Chamber Judge in November 2012.
The president of the STL has a wide range of responsibilities, including oversight of the effective functioning of the STL and the good administration of justice, as well as representing the STL in relations with states, the United Nations, and other entities, the STL statement said.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.