Special Tribunal for Lebanon Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri on Monday sentenced al-Jadeed TV deputy chief editor Karma Khayat to a fine of 10,000 euros on charges of “interfering with the administration of justice” by failing to remove online content on alleged witnesses.
After hearing the arguments of the Amicus Curiae Prosecutor, or Friend of the Court, and the Defense lawyer, Lettieri said he sentenced Khayat to “a fine of €10,000 to be paid in full by 30 October, 2015.”
The Judge stated that written reasons for his decision were to follow in due course.
On September 18, the judge found Khayat guilty and Al-Jadeed S.A.L. not guilty with respect to the charges under Count 2, meaning for failing to remove the information on the alleged witnesses from al-Jadeed TV’s website and YouTube channel despite an order by the STL Pre-Trial Judge to do so.
Lettieri found both Khayat and Al-Jadeed S.A.L. “not guilty with respect to the charges under Count 1 of the order in lieu of indictment.”
The first count includes diffusing information that undermines public confidence in “the court's ability to protect the confidentiality of information about, or provided by, witnesses or potential witnesses.”
Naharnet has learned that the Friend of the Court, who is similar to a prosecutor in contempt cases related to the STL, is on the verge of making a decision to appeal three out of four verdicts issued by Lettieri against al-Jadeed S.A.L. and Khayat.
According to informed sources, the Friend of the Court's appeal of the fourth verdict considering Khayat guilty in one of two charges of contempt was hinging on Monday's ruling.
If the verdict came "light," then the Friend of the Court would appeal the four verdicts in an attempt to get the Appeals Chamber to condemn the three cases that Lettieri cleared al-Jadeed and Khayat of, and to give a stronger sentence in the fourth case in which the judge found Khayat guilty with the obstruction of justice, the sources said.
On the other hand, both parties continue with making media and legal campaigns in an attempt to prove slander on the court's part and a violation of freedom of speech in Lebanon.
Therefore, those closely informed about the contempt case against Khayat believe that she will appeal the verdict that was issued on Monday.
Set up in 2007, the court is the only international ad hoc tribunal with the jurisdiction to try an act of terror.
It is specifically trying suspects charged with the murder of former premier Rafik Hariri, killed with 22 others in a massive suicide car bombing on the Beirut waterfront on February 14, 2005.
Al-Jadeed -- which had been critical of Hariri -- broadcast five programs in August 2012 on the alleged witnesses due to testify at the highly-sensitive trial.
The prosecutor had later said "11 witnesses were approached," raising concerns about protecting the identities of those giving evidence.
Five suspected members of Hizbullah have been indicted by the court. The party has slammed the court as an American-Israeli scheme and vowed that the suspects will never be found.
Their trial in absentia opened in January 2014, but despite international warrants for their arrest, the five are yet to appear in court.
While al-Jadeed had concealed the witnesses' faces and names were not mentioned, "nobody was fooled" about their identities, prosecutors told the judge during the trial.
Speaking from Lebanon, Khayat gave a scathing reaction on September 18.
"The verdict of innocence in the contempt charge means that you (the STL) wasted our time and disrupted our workflow for two years, and in the end, we were right."
Referring to an email ordering the broadcasts to be removed which Khayat said she had not opened, she said "a single email cannot be considered enough evidence against me."
The court "took this decision (to convict me) just to save face. (At) this stage it isn't over yet."
Khayat is the first-ever accused to appear willingly before the STL, a hybrid tribunal that uses both international and Lebanese law in its judgments.
At the trial's opening in April, Khayat told the court her television station aimed to ensure that money to fund the tribunal was not being squandered.
Her lawyer Karim Khan said prosecutors were "shooting the messenger" because al-Jadeed was not responsible for any leaks of the witnesses' identities.
The charges are punishable by a maximum seven-year prison sentence, and/or a fine of up to 100,000 euros.
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