The closing sessions in the trial of Rafik Hariri's killers kicked off Tuesday at the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague.
The hearings commenced with the closing arguments of the Prosecutor and are to be followed by the Legal Representatives of Victims and the Defense of the four Accused.
According to an STL statement, “the Prosecution may then respond and the Defense may reply.”
A number of participating victims will attend the hearings, including Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri.
As instructed by the Trial Chamber, the Prosecutor and the Legal Representatives of Victims filed their final briefs on July 16, 2018, and the Defense teams on August 13, 2018.
The trial had opened on January 15, 2014 with the opening statements by the Prosecutor, the Legal Representatives and Defense counsel. The Prosecution started the presentation of its case which ended on February 7, 2018.
The Legal Representatives presented the victims’ case between 28 August and 7 September 2017. Counsel for Hizbullah suspect Hussein Hassan Oneissi elected to present a Defense case and called two witnesses who testified on 14 and 15 May, and 5, 6 and 7 June 2018, and tendered documents for admission into evidence. Counsel for Oneissi closed their case on June 28, 2018.
“The presentation of the closing arguments concludes the trial hearings in the Ayyash et al. case but is not yet a finding of guilt or innocence,” the STL noted.
“The Judges will then withdraw to deliberate and will issue a judgment in due course. After hearing all the evidence and deliberating the Judges will issue a reasoned judgment that will find an accused 'guilty' or 'not guilty,'” it added.
“A finding of guilt may be reached only when a majority of the Trial Chamber is satisfied that guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt (Rule 148). If a trial chamber finds an accused guilty it will subsequently decide on the sentence. This will then conclude the trial phase which is one of the five phases of the proceedings (investigation and indictment, pre-trial, trial, appeal and enforcement of sentence when applicable),” the STL clarified in its statement.
In its “Final Trial Brief” published on the court's website, the Prosecution explains the links between Hizbullah and the supposed assassination squads and draws attention to meetings and phone calls between senior Hizbullah official Wafiq Safa and former Syrian security chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh prior to the February 2005 attack.
Explaining the link between political tensions in Lebanon and the activities of the four alleged mobile phone networks that were supposedly used in the assassination, the report says “significant steps taken by the opposition coalition and ultimately by Hariri, their powerful ally, to resist, defy and challenge the Syrian regime's hegemony corresponded with a reaction of the four phone networks.”
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