Naharnet

STL Rejects al-Amin Request to Postpone Initial Appearance beyond May 29

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Tuesday rejected a request by al-Akhbar newspaper editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin to postpone his initial appearance before the court in the contempt case beyond the scheduled May 29 session.

“On May 26, 2014, I received a letter from Mr. al-Amin, raising several concerns in relation to the initial appearance. However, I consider that a letter is not the appropriate way to bring such matters to my attention,” Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri said in an order dated May 27, 2014.

“After the initial appearance will be the appropriate time to discuss the issues raised by Mr. Amin in his letter. This includes arguments on the jurisdiction of the Tribunal over the crime with which Mr. al-Amin and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. are charged as well as the extension of any deadlines to make sure that the Accused have adequate time to prepare for the case,” Lettieri added.

He announced that “there is no reason to once again postpone Mr. al-Amin's and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L.'s appearances.”

“All the matters that Mr. al-Amin is concerned about can and will be raised before me, but at a public hearing. To hear Mr. Amin requires his participation in the initial appearance as a first step,” Lettieri clarified.

The judge asked Head of STL Defense Office Francois Roux to explain at the May 29 hearing “the steps he has undertaken after the hearing of 13 May 2014 to explain to the Accused the purpose of an initial appearance and the means to protect their rights.”

In his letter on Monday, al-Amin had requested that the May 29 hearing be “postponed by a serious, sufficient period of time to carry out what is required” of him.

“We find ourselves before a tribunal whose image and credibility have suffered greatly in light of the major doubts surrounding the circumstances of its creation, its working methods, its selectiveness in penalizing contempt and its transgression of international precedents in prosecuting media companies in Lebanon,” the journalist says in the letter.

“The laws of Lebanon, as in other countries, stipulate that I be granted a time period not less than two to three months. Here we are, though, before a recently established

court subject to special rules and which is besieged by much questioning and uncertainty,” al-Amin pointed out, according to the English version of the letter that is published on the STL's website.

The journalist cited “legitimate doubts as to whether the conditions of ensuring security and a fair trial are being met."

He mentioned “the legitimate feeling that there is a possibility that the accusation and measures taken in connection with the trial could be seized upon to jeopardize my safety and that of my family members and the employees of the company."

Al-Amin also cited "the legitimate feeling that the Tribunal is arbitrary" and "legitimate feelings that critical and dissenting media are being singled out."

On Friday, Lettieri ordered initial appearances on May 29 by Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. and al-Amin.

The journalist and the media organization are charged with contempt before the STL for "knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice."

The session will be held at 3:00 pm CET.

The initial appearances were originally scheduled for May 13, but were postponed upon the request of al-Amin, who asked for additional time to select legal counsel.

As stated by the Contempt Judge in the summons, the Accused may decide either to come to the seat of the Tribunal or to make their initial appearance by video-conference, provided that counsel attends in person.

The hearings will be public, but the judge may decide to go into closed session if confidential matters need to be discussed.

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.”

New TV S.A.L. and deputy head of news at al-Jadeed television Karma Tahsin al-Khayat have been also accused of the same charges.

An initial hearing for the two journalists and their media organizations was held on May 13 at the STL headquarters in The Hague.

Al-Jadeed Director General Dmitry Khodr and Khayat entered pleas of not guilty.

Al-Amin did not attend the session.

In April last year, a list of 167 names of so-called witnesses for the former Premier Rafik Hariri trial was published by a previously unknown group identified as "Journalists for the Truth."

The group said it wanted to "unveil the corruption" of the STL.

Both al-Akhbar and al-Jadeed published the list.

Y.R.


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