Naharnet

Khoury before STL: Fleihan Spoke of Real Threat to Hariri's Life Days before Assassination

Former MP Ghattas Khoury concluded on Tuesday his testimony before the Prosecution at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, recounting the details of events that took place days before the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.

He revealed that slain Minister Bassel Fleihan had warned the premier that there were serious threats against his life.

“Fleihan said that the lives of former PM Hariri and MP Walid Jumblat were at risk. These claims were made in an article in al-Hayat newspaper,” he added.

“It was the first time he took such threats seriously,” Khoury told the court.

Fleihan explained that the al-Hayat article may have based its information on British intelligence that may have been spying on Syrian intelligence agencies.

Hariri said that he will take these threats into consideration and carry out the necessary contacts to inquire about them, added Khoury.

He noted however that “Hariri had told me that Arab and foreign officials had advised the Syrian regime to avoid resorting to assassinations in Lebanon in the wake of the attempt against MP Marwan Hamadeh's life in October 2004.”

“Given the grip the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus had over Lebanon, an assassination attempt could not have been possible without its knowledge,” he explained.

The security agencies controlling Lebanon at the time were tapping the telephones of opposition figures, harassing student activists, and exerting other forms of pressure, said the former lawmaker.

“Hariri had repeatedly complained that the Lebanese security agencies were violating the law,” he revealed.

Khoury then spoke of the media campaign and pressure exerted by the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus days before Hariri's murder.

The latest media campaign was focused on the former premier's distribution of olive oil on families in Beirut.

Hariri had come under attack for his efforts even though it was a practice he had adopted for some seven years, he remarked.

On the day of the assassination, continued Khoury, Hariri was attending a parliament session, which was expected to tackle the parliamentary electoral law.

The former prime minister then realized that the meeting would not be addressing this issue, prompting him to exit the building and head to a nearby cafe, he recounted.

Hariri would have returned to parliament on February 14 had it been planning to discuss the electoral law, noted Khoury.

“I met with him briefly and then headed to my work at the American University of Beirut Medical Center,” he stated.

“Soon after arriving at the hospital, I heard the assassination blast. I headed outdoors and witnessed the smoke caused by the explosion. I sensed that Hariri may have been the target,” he revealed.

An emotional Khoury then told the court that the bodies of the blast victims soon began arriving at AUBMC. He identified Hariri's corpse and then saw Fleihan, who was in the premier's convoy, being treated for his injuries.

The Prosecution then concluded its cross-examination of Khoury and the Defense then began its questioning.

The session was then adjourned to Wednesday.

Fleihan passed away in April 2005 from the injuries he sustained in Hariri's assassination.

The STL is tackling the February 2005 assassination of Hariri and 22 others in a major bombing in Beirut.

It is currently listening to the testimonies of a number of witnesses who were close to Hariri in the months preceding the assassination.

Hamadeh gave his testimony in late 2014 and journalist Faisal Salman gave his testimony at the resumption of the hearings in 2015.

Khoury's testimony will be followed by witness Salim Diab on January 22 and 23.

M.T.

Y.R.


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