Victims' brothers testify at Hariri murder trial

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Published Friday, January 24, 2014

Updated 5:22 pm: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) on Friday heard statements from two brothers of victims killed in the 2005 downtown Beirut explosion that targeted former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

There was a third witness who spoke via video link but their picture and voice were distorted to conceal their identity, and the live broadcast of the trial was cut moments after the witness began to speak before The Hague-based court.

An early morning session of the STL was also closed to the media and public.

Nazih Bou Rjeily, the brother of one of the 22 people killed in the February 14 Beirut explosion, told the court via video link that his brother's body wasn't discovered until a day after the attack as it had been buried under rubble.

"My brother did not seem dead. He had no injuries to his head or face, and only a little blood," Bou Rjeily said as he described seeing his brother Zahi in the morgue.

A coroner's report would reveal that his brother died not from the blast itself, but from suffocation 12 hours after the attack, Bou Rjeily said.

"Whenever we remember him, we always say it would have been better for him to have died immediately," Bou Rjeily added. "What was he thinking for these 12 hours under the rubble?"

Nazih Bou Rjeily, the brother of Zahi killed in the February 14, 2005 Beirut explosion, provides testimony to the STL via video link.

Witness Fuad al-Zahabi told the court his brother Mazen was working as a medic for Hariri before the attack, and that he was travelling in the convoy of the ex-PM at the moment of the explosion.

The prosecution played for the court horrifying footage that showed Mazen, on fire, climbing out of the front passenger side window of his vehicle after the attack.

He crawls for a few seconds after falling out of the window as a bystander could be heard shouting for water to douse the flames.

"The only part of his body not burned were his feet," Zahabi told the court. "I was able to identify him from surgical scar on right foot cause from a car accident."

Zahabi said his brother was still conscious when he arrived to the hospital, at which point he informed the medical staff that Hariri was allergic to certain medicines and asked them to be mindful of that.

He died later that night from his injuries, Zahabi said.

"To those who executed this crime, I'd like to say the following," Zahabi added.

"If you are not punished on this earth, you should know that Aod will punish you on judgement day."

A still from footage shown to the STL Friday shows Mazen al-Zahabi leaning out of the window of a vehicle engulfed in flames.

Prosecutors are trying four Hezbollah members in absentia over the 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.

The prosecution began calling witnesses to the stand on Wednesday, when brothers of two other victims described their ordeals on Wednesday.

On Thursday a former investigator for the prosecutor was questioned about CCTV footage that purports to show a vehicle suspected to have been used in the attack.

The prosecution is arguing that a Mitsubishi truck fitted with 2.5 - 3 tons of explosives was detonated on the day in question by a suicide driver.

The defense, which argues that explosives may have been planted under ground, cross examined Thursday's witness in which it compelled her to admin that there is no proof a vehicle was involved in the attack.

(Al-Akhbar)

Comments

Victim's relatives giving testimony at the very beginning of trial? This is not a serious court, but rather it seems like a PR stunt. Besides their obvious pain and tragedy, what material information or pertinent testimony do they have to offer?

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