STL to appoint defense counsel to Al-Akhbar despite chief's objections
Published Thursday, June 5, 2014
An international court that has charged Al-Akhbar and its editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin with contempt and obstruction of justice over the publication of a secret witness list will appoint a counsel to defend the accused against Amin's wishes.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), ostensibly set up to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, said in a statement Thursday that Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri decided to go ahead with the decision despite Amin vowing to boycott the trial.
Amin, during an appearance before the court on May 29, told Lettieri that he does not recognize its legitimacy and refuses to allow the judge to appoint a defense counsel to represent him or the newspaper.
"I refuse to appoint any lawyer to represent me or Al-Akhbar, and I refuse that you appoint a lawyer to defend me or the company," Amin had told the court on May 29.
Amin walked out of that session and has vowed to boycott the trial.
But the judge said he interpreted Amin's remarks as a not guilty plea, and will move forward with the case.
"Amin's presence at the initial appearance means that he no longer has the rights that an Accused in an in absentia trial enjoys," the statement said.
It added that Amin can still choose to appear at future STL hearings in person of via video-link, and appoint a defense counsel of his choosing, if he wants.
The STL has come under fire by media rights groups after announcing last month that it charged Amin, deputy director of Al-Jadeed TV Karma Khayat, and their news organizations with obstruction of justice and contempt.
Prosecutors accuse the journalists of “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice” by publishing secret information about STL witnesses.
If found guilty, Amin and Khayat could face up to seven years in prison and a 100,000 euro fine.