Al-Akhbar daily editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin withdrew on Thursday from the initial appearance in the contempt case filed against him by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Amin withdrew from the session, before which he appeared via video-link from Lebanon, when STL Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri interrupted him as he was reading a statement on his position from the STL.
The journalist, who chose to represent himself, criticized Lettieri for cutting him off, saying that it is a sign of the “oppression” practiced by the tribunal.
He consequently announced that he will remain silent for the remainder of the proceedings.
Lettieri said he will interpret Amin's stance as a plea of not guilty.
The journalist then interjected by requesting if he could be allowed to withdraw from the session to which the judge responded that he is a "free man".
Amin then withdrew from the session.
The initial appearance had kicked off at the Hague on Thursday afternoon.
Amin repeated before the STL that he does not recognize it, saying that he cannot trust a U.N. Security Council that disregards the injustice taking place in Palestine.
He added that he felt that he was forced against his will to appear before the STL.
“The STL is part of a political plot that is conspiring against Lebanese forces that are combating U.S.-Israeli schemes in Lebanon,” added the journalist.
He mentioned how the Security Council had neglected to tackle the “crimes against humanity committed by Israel during the July 2006 war and the various car bombings that have taken place in Lebanon in 2013.”
Lettieri then interjected to refute his claims that he was brought before the court against his will.
He explained that he could have relinquished his right to appear before the trial and he would have been tried in absentia.
In addition, Lettieri informed Amin that he brought up issues that do not fall in the STL's jurisdiction.
“It is useless to talk about topics that do not fall within our jurisdiction. This is a tribunal, not a talk show,” he told him, which prompted Amin's decision to remain silent and consequently withdraw.
After a ten-minute break for deliberations, the session resumed with Lettieri ordering that a defense lawyer be appointed to Amin.
He requested that the STL Defense Office assign a lawyer to represent the journalist.
On Monday, Amin had requested, via a letter, that the May 29 hearing be “postponed by a serious, sufficient period of time to carry out what is required” of him.
Lettieri had rejected the request, saying that “there is no reason to once again postpone Mr. Amin's and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L.'s appearances.”
“All the matters that Mr. 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.
Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. and 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.
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.
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