Naharnet

STL Hears al-Jadeed Testimony, Sets New Date for al-Amin as Khayat Pleads Not Guilty

An initial hearing for Lebanese journalists and their media organizations on charges of contempt was held Tuesday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon headquarters in The Hague, amid the absence of al-Akhbar's editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin who said he won't go to the court “unless measures are taken” to prove that it is seeking justice.

The STL said via twitter that the purpose of the initial appearance is for the judge to ensure that the rights of the accused and the right to be represented by counsel are respected.

“This follows the issuing of summons to appear or the execution of an arrest warrant against an individual charged of crimes before the STL,” it said.

Al-Jadeed TV Director General Dmitry Khodr and Karma al-Khayat, the deputy head of news at the station, entered pleas of not guilty.

“I came here to defend my rights under your laws,” Karma told the court.

She said her only crime was the “respect” for her profession and the “highlighting of the court's mistakes.”

But al-Akhbar newspaper's editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin announced that he will not appear before the STL.

The two journalists and their media organizations New TV S.A.L. and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. were charged with contempt before the tribunal after they disclosed details of alleged STL witnesses.

British Karim Khan is the counsel for New TV S.A.L and al-Khayat, who are charged with “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by broadcasting and/or publishing information on purported confidential witnesses” and “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by failing to remove from al-Jadeed TV’s website and al-Jadeed TV’s YouTube channel information on purported confidential witnesses.”

The counsel stated at the hearing that there is no conflict of interest in representing both NEW TV S.A.L and Khayat.

Khan indicated that al-Jadeed's Defense will challenge the jurisdiction with respect to the charges against the corporation.

Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri gave al-Jadeed until June 16 to file preliminary motions.

In the afternoon session, Lettieri set Thursday, May 29, as a new date for al-Amin to appear before court.

"We understand Ibrahim al-Amin's need to lay out a logical defense plan, but this does not require nor justifies postponing his initial appearance before the court," the judge said.

Meanwhile, head of STL's Defense Office Francois Roux stressed that the accused al-Amin should have enough time to choose his counsel.

“I will not appear before the STL on May 29 unless measures are taken to prove that the court is seeking justice,” al-Amin told reporters in Beirut after the session was adjourned.

“According to my initial evaluation, a deadline of two weeks will not be sufficient and I will consult with the lawyers to determine whether the timeframe is enough or not," he added.

"I need to form a defense team and this will require a series of measures, because there are court rules that violate the international law and there are rules of procedure that violate the STL's statute itself," the journalist went on to say.

Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. and al-Amin are charged with “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by publishing information on purported confidential witnesses in the Ayyash et al. Case.”

Al-Amin was scheduled to appear at 4:30 pm Beirut time before Lettieri. But he said the court failed to address the newspaper's request to postpone the hearing.

Meanwhile, journalists held a solidarity meeting at the Press Syndicate headquarters in Beirut after the hearing opened in The Hague.

Al-Amin said at the meeting that his presence in the Hague is not important because the STL did not give him “guarantees.”

The STL has indicted five Hizbullah members for involvement in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's Feb. 2005 assassination.

The Trial Chamber on Monday ordered the resumption of trial of the accused on June 18.

G.K./Y.R.


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