Report: STL to Issue Verdict in Hariri Trial in Spring 2019

The verdict in ex-PM Rafik Hariri's assassination trial is expected to be issued in the spring of 2019, Special Tribunal for Lebanon sources told LBCI TV on Wednesday.

Defense lawyers for the accused Salim Ayyash and Hassan Merhi meanwhile announced that they have exhibits to refute the telecom data evidence that the Prosecution used to build its case, noting that the evidence they have could divert the accusations to parties other than Hizbullah.

LBCI said the lawyers were speaking during an STL forum for journalists in The Hague.

The director of the office of the STL President meanwhile noted that the proceedings and trial have been running for several years now because the gathering and analysis of telecom data evidence consumes a long time. He also pointed out that telecom data evidence has rarely been used in international courts.

MTV meanwhile reported that a journalist “surprised everyone by announcing that he has received an email from one of the accused during a media meeting with STL Defense teams.”

“There is ambiguity and conflicting accounts in the evidence submitted by the Prosecution and we have our own pieces of evidence. We will defend the accused who are innocent until proven guilty,” MTV quoted the lawyers as saying.

The STL had on February 7 announced that the Prosecutor had completed the presentation of evidence, marking the conclusion of the prosecution case.

Since the start of the Prosecution case, the Prosecution has presented evidence from over 260 individual witnesses and about 2,470 exhibits in documentary form, the STL said.

“On 20 and 21 February, the Trial Chamber will hear the Rule 167 submissions of the Defense, any response from the Prosecution and any reply from the Defense. A judgment of acquittal or a decision dismissing the application will be delivered in court as soon as practicable thereafter,” the court added.

The Ayyash et al. case relates to the February 14, 2005 attack which killed 22 individuals, including former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and injured 226 others.

The Accused Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra remain at large. The proceedings against them are being held in absentia. On July 11, 2016, the Appeals Chamber ordered the termination of the proceedings against slain Hizbullah commander Mustafa Badreddine.

The trial is making it possible for the Lebanese people to see evidence being presented and challenged, as well as witnesses testifying and being cross-examined in public.

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the court as a U.S.-Israeli scheme and vowed that the accused will never be found.

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