STL resumes Hariri murder trial
Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The prosecution in an international court set up to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri resumed its trial Wednesday with prosecutors delivering an opening statement against a man it says played a key role in the killing.
The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) had adjourned in February for nearly four months to allow the defense team of Hassan Merhi time to prepare after his case was merged with that of four other suspects indicted in the murder.
Hariri was among 22 people killed in a massive blast that targeted his vehicle convoy in downtown Beirut on February 14, 2005.
The prosecution alleges that the fives suspects had stalked Hariri for months before the assassination, prepared the bomb used in the explosion, and set up a patsy to claim responsibility for the crime to throw off investigators.
On Wednesday prosecutors argued that Merhi was the "chief architect" in a phase of the crime that involved framing a patsy.
Prosecutors said Merhi identified Ahmed Abu Adas, a worshipper at a Beirut mosque, as a scapegoat to the murder prior to the explosion, then prepared a false claim of responsibility in a video showing him reading from a letter.
Merhi was also responsible for delivering the video to the media, the prosecutors claimed.
Its evidence it largely based on telecommunication records from phones allegedly used by the five suspects, all of whom are being tried in absentia.
The prosecution originally charged four suspects – Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – each with two counts of terrorism and three counts of homicides in 2011.
Merhi was charged last year with the same crimes but the trial began in January before his case was merged with that of the other four.
The prosecutors said Wednesday that Merhi was a part of two phone networks (the green and purple networks) that were used strictly for plotting the assassination.
In the opening statement, prosecutor Graeme Cameron described Merhi as a “grey man who understood how to operate in the shadows,” and who shared many of the same characteristics as his "co-conspirators," without listing them.
During opening remarks in January, the prosecution noted that all their suspects were of the Shia sect, drawing a rebuke from the defense team in its remarks the next day who asked the court if the religion of the defendants was on trial.