STL prosecution witness plays coy with the defense

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Published Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A former Lebanese military investigator who was involved in a probe of the 2005 assassination of ex premier Rafik Hariri offered little information when cross examined by a defense lawyer in court Tuesday.

Speaking via video link from Beirut before The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) with his picture and audio scrambled to conceal his identity, the witness claimed having a hazy recollection of simply no knowledge of events related to the Beirut blast that killed Hariri and 21 others.

When asked multiple times by defense lawyer Andreas O'Shea if he could explain why the judge in charge of the investigation was replaced twice within a period of about a month, the witness insisted he had no clue, and that it was not his duty to know.

"May I suggest you're being a little bit shy in saying that? You do know some facts about why [Judge Michel] Abou Arraj changed to [Judge] Elias Eid, don't you?" O'Shea asked.

"No, I don't know. If I knew i would have told you," the witness responded.

"You know absolutely nothing?," the lawyer asked again.

"As part of my job I was never concerned with the reasons of appointing this or that judge," he responded.

The answer did not satisfy the lawyer.

"You told this court that it was your function to work with the investigating judge of the military police. I suggest to you that your claim that the circumstance of the dismissal of Abou Arraj were never discussed among your colleagues must be wrong," O'Shea said.

"It's an extraordinary claim for a man of your position."

When asked how many times he had visited the blast site during his investigations, the witness said he could not remember. The lawyer asked him if it was between two and 10. The witness repeated that he could not remember, but that it was more than two.

O'Shea also pressed the witness to explain why it took investigators seven days to locate the body of a victim who was killed in the explosion, asking him if he thought it showed incompetence on the part of his team.

The witness defended the performance of his investigation team, blaming other factors for obstructing the investigation, including the "weather."

When O'Shea asked the witness if an investigator of his rank wears two stars on his lapel, the witness told him to "look at a picture" of an officer in uniform "and you will know."

The response drew one of several rebukes from chamber judge David Re who demanded he answer the question.

The witness confirmed he wore two stars on each shoulder.



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