STL defense team denounces "questionable" practices as trial nears

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013

According to the defense team, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has taken a series of "questionable" steps ahead of the trial’s opening session on January 13, 2014.

Preparations are underway at the STL to begin the trial of five Lebanese citizens accused of planning the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.

The tribunal has been wracked with leaks since it was established.

During a recent preparatory session, the defense team took note of the “questionable” absence of François Roux, the head of the Defense Office, in addition to the presence of four judges instead of five, due to the resignation of Judge Robert Roth.

The prosecution’s representative explained that his team will make their case over three phases, starting with the scene of the crime and the explosion that took place there, involving up to 170 witnesses.

The second phase will cover the planning process, such as the rigging of the car bomb, while the third and final phase will address the communication network that oversaw the execution of the crime.

For its part, the defense reiterated its complaints about needing much more time to prepare their case, with one defense lawyer noting that the case file is around a million pages long and requires several years to review, yet the trial is set to begin in less than three months.

Another defense lawyer pointed out to the court that despite having submitted a series of questions and clarification to the Lebanese government, the authorities in Beirut have yet to respond to any of them.

Head of the defense team, Minister of Labor Salim Jreissati, said he suspected that this was an attempt by the STL to move quickly through the trial by skipping procedural steps whenever possible and disregarding the absence of critical personnel like Roux.

Jreissati even suggests that pre-trial proceedings may very well reflect the turn of events in the region, favoring “a particular political line,” in reference to the axis of resistance and particularly Hezbollah, which is the prime suspect at the tribunal.

The minister believes that there is an attempt to compensate for the losses of the West and its local allies by establishing Hezbollah’s guilt, thus undermining the movement in the name of international law and justice.

(Al-Akhbar)

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