Defense in Hariri Murder Cites Difficulties, Roux Calls for Respect of Merhi's Rights

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The defense teams of two of the suspects accused of involvement in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination made their opening statements on Monday, the third day of trial held at the seat of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague.

They cited lack of evidence against the accused and stressed the difficulty of their role over lack of cooperation of the Lebanese authorities and lack of time.

The defense lawyer for Mustafa Badreddine, the alleged mastermind of Hariri's murder, is Antoine Korkmaz and the co-Counsel is John Jones.

Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse is representing Hassan Oneissi, whose co-Counsel is Yasser Hassan.

The four Hizbullah suspects - Badreddine, Oneissi, Salim Ayyash and Assad Sabra - have been indicted in the Feb. 2005 assassination of Hariri in a suicide truck bombing that killed him and 21 others on the Beirut seafront.

The suspects are being tried in absentia because they haven't been arrested.

The fifth to be indicted was Hassan Habib Merhi, who was indicted later than the other four suspects and is not officially a suspect in the trial that started Thursday but several accusations have been made against him.

His lawyers are attending the trial in observer status.

STL's Head of Defense Office Francois Roux asked the Trial Chamber to “put a stop to violations of the rights of Merhi.”

He said Merhi was accused on Thursday and Friday in the prosecutor’s opening statements with the four others without having his effective rights given to him in pre-trial proceedings and pre-trial conferences.

Prosecutors are relying on a web of timings and locations of mobile phone calls they say were made by the bombers as they tracked Hariri in the months, weeks, days and minutes before his assassination.

But Korkmaz said there was no evidence on the participation of Badreddine in the conspiracy.

He stressed that he would challenge the accusations against Badreddine in due time.

“If the accused were in court they would have had the opportunity to express themselves. The defense won't be able to do so in lieu of the accused,” he said.

Korkmaz accused the prosecutor of communicating its documents on the investigation late to the defense team.

"Contrary to what some individuals have implied, the defense wasn’t able to carry out an in-depth investigation," he said.

He said the prosecution has no actual image at the present time of the attack of the Mitsubishi van despite numerous cameras there.

There is also a lack of photos taken by satellite, which without any doubt they do exist, he said.

He added that there is no evidence the van shown in the video images is actually the booby-trapped vehicle.

After his opening statement, Courcelle-Labrousse said the current situation in Lebanon does not make it possible for the defense team to conduct investigations.

“It is illusory to state that the defense will be able to counter the claims of hundreds of experts who were based in the prosecution's evidence,” he said.

"We are faced with an overabundance of material that is being disclosed to us," he told the court.

"We are wondering whether the start of the trial is a battle of experts," he said, a reference to the prosecution's claims.

The lawyer said the prosecutors had presented no possible motive during their opening statement that took a day and a half.

Courcelle-Labrousse said: "There are inexplicable blanks in the prosecution's case."

Co-counsel Hassan reiterated claims of the difficulties of the defense team. "The defense had to deal for five months with redacted material ... It was impossible for us to read the telecom report."

“Are only the victims of the Feb. 2005 attack worthy of an international tribunal?” he asked mentioning several other assassinations that were carried out in Lebanon before Hariri's murder.

“The hypotheses of the prosecution disregarded completely the material fact and neglected it,” he said.

He added: “The indictment is like a tree whose leaves will fall in the autumn.”

Timeline
  • 20 January 2014, 14:02

    Hassan: The indictment is like a tree whose leaves will fall in the autumn.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:59

    Hassan on the indictment's mention of the Shiite sect of the accused: Does any local or international court mention the sect of any accused?

  • 20 January 2014, 13:59

    Hassan: If the prosecution wants to accuse Hizbullah, then let it do so. Or it should remove the hints against it from the indictment.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:55

    Hassan: The prosecution did not say where the explosives came from and where the van took first the road to reach the blast scene.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:54

    Hassan: The indictment did not take into consideration that these locations where the accused are assumed to be present, could be there for family reasons of for business.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:53

    Hassan: The prosecution failed to identify the suicide bomber.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:52

    Hassan: The hypotheses of the prosecution disregarded completely the material fact and neglected it.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:50

    Hassan: Is there anyone wiping out the evidence in the Hariri assassination after Assef Shawkat and several other Syrians were killed?

  • 20 January 2014, 13:47

    Hassan: We are not here to confront the victims … but when we talk about them we mention all victims and not just part of them. Justice is for everyone including the 4 Lebanese generals.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:46

    Hassan: Are only the victims of the Feb. 2005 attack worthy of an international tribunal?

  • 20 January 2014, 13:44

    Hassan wondered why tribunals haven't been established in the killing of several other Lebanese officials.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:42

    Hassan: Why didn't we receive the Lebanese case file while it was received by the prosecutor?

  • 20 January 2014, 13:41

    Hassan: Someone intended to disrupt the follow-up of the Lebanese authorities and the investigation.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:40

    Hassan said the prosecution had many years to build its case and kept the information to itself.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:38

    Hassan: The time allocated for the defense to study the file had been reduced and the team did not have enough time to make enough contacts to study the evidence.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:35

    Hassan: The defense had to deal for 5 months with redacted material. It was impossible for us to read the telecom report.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:34

    Hassan cited the obstruction of the defense team's work after the prosecution's file reached late.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:33

    Hassan: The defense team has difficulties.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:33

    Hassan: If the accused is present, we can ask him any question and discuss the evidence with him.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:32

    Yasser Hassan: There is no exchange whatsoever between the defense and the accused.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:26

    Courcelle-Labrousse: Unproved assumptions never become a proved fact.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:17

    Courcelle-Labrousse: There are inexplicable blanks in the prosecution's case.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:17

    Courcelle-Labrousse said the prosecution did not reveal when the conspiracy began. We also don't know the reasons behind the murder.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:15

    Courcelle-Labrousse: The evidence lacked enough material to accuse Oneissi.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:12

    Courcelle-Labrousse called on the chamber to investigate the material presented by the prosecution.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:09

    Courcelle-Labrousse: Everything that the investigators reveal and all their probe must be known by the judges.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:07

    Courcelle-Labrousse: Why certain lines of inquiry have been discarded?

  • 20 January 2014, 13:06

    Courcelle-Labrousse: We are wondering whether the start of the trial is a battle of experts.

  • 20 January 2014, 13:04

    Courcelle-Labrousse: We are faced with an overabundance of material that is being disclosed to us.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:30

    The court took a break and will resume in half an hour.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:26

    Courcelle-Labrousse: It is illusory to state that the defense will be able to counter the claims of hundreds of experts who were based in the prosecution's evidence.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:23

    Courcelle-Labrousse: The Lebanese state has supplied no answer on the request for assistance from the defense team

  • 20 January 2014, 12:23

    Courcelle-Labrousse: The current situation in Lebanon does not make it possible to conduct investigations.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:19

    Courcelle-Labrousse: Oneissi's absence from this trial is not a sign of his guilt.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:17

    Courcelle-Labrousse: We receive no instructions be they direct or indirect.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:16

    Courcelle-Labrousse: We are independent.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:16

    Courcelle-Labrousse: We are here to defend the interest of Oneissi.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:13

    Courcelle-Labrousse expressed his respect to the victims of the crime

  • 20 January 2014, 12:10

    Korkmaz: The prosecution's claim confirms that it hasn't explored all other avenues that could have been investigated. But they have been abandoned.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:08

    Korkmaz said no evidence on the participation of Badreddine in conspiracy.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:06

    Korkmaz is making a claim that the Hariri killing was not a terrorist act under Lebanese law.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:05

    Korkmaz: It would appear that the cause of the blast must have been an underground explosion.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:04

    Korkmaz: There is no evidence that the van shown in the video images is actually the booby-trapped vehicle.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:03

    Korkmaz: No one proved that there was a suicide bomber at the crime scene.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:03

    Korkmaz: There is also a lack of photos taken by satellite.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:02

    Korkmaz: The prosecution has no actual image at the present time of the attack of the van despite numerous cameras there.

  • 20 January 2014, 12:01

    Korkmaz: The prosecution has presented a thesis regarding the use of the Mitsubishi van and a suicide bomber. They used Argentinian experts to validate the hypothesis.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:57

    Korkmaz: The defense team suffers from lack of cooperation with the Lebanese government. There is no answer to the assistance asked for by the defense, including the telephone data.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:57

    Korkmaz: Contrary to what some individuals have implied, the defense wasn’t able to carry out an in-depth investigation.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:57

    Korkmaz: It the accused were in the court they would have had the opportunity to express themselves. The defense won't be able to do so in lieu of the accused.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:55

    Korkmaz: The serious prejudice against the fundamental rights of the accused is included in the very nature of the in absentia procedure.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:54

    Korkmaz said the defense didn't have time to analyze the prosecution's claims. The prosecutor's documents began to be communicated late to the defense team.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:52

    Korkmaz: The defense has been literally kept in the sidelines.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:51

    Korkmaz: Despite the huge resources of the prosecutor's office, the late indictment showed it cannot control things.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:48

    Korkmaz: Politics should be left out of this court.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:47

    Korkmaz called for a probe into the leaks in the probe.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:46

    Korkmaz said the defense has warned from starting the trial before setting a stance from Merhi's case.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:45

    Korkmaz: The prosecutor preferred to talk about the Shiite Muslim belonging of the suspects.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:44

    Korkmaz: We don't know the motives of the crime.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:42

    Korkmaz: After 9 years, only 4 people have been indicted and are not present. These people remain entirely unknown. they are agents in between those who executed and ordered the crime.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:42

    Korkmaz: Trial Chamber's responsibility is heavier. It must tackle two sets of difficulties resulting form the general nature of the file and the second for the defenses being sidelined.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:41

    Korkmaz: The trial which is about to start should not become fictitious.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:39

    Korkmaz: I won't speak much because it isn't yet time for me to say what I have.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:35

    Roux asked the Trial Chamber to put a stop to the violations of Merhi's rights.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:34

    Roux: Merhi's defense won't be able to cross examine the witnesses despite the allegations against him.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:32

    Roux: How can one accept that the accused Merhi be accused in the prosecutor’s opening statements with the four others without having his effective rights given to him in pre-trial proceedings and pre-trial conferences.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:31

    Roux: Ex-STL President Judge Cassese reminds us in his writings that there are fundamental rights for the accused. The prosecutor is only allowed to make an opening statement in which he publicly accuses an accused at the end of pre-trial proceedings.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:30

    Roux: We have an accused (Merhi) who was publicly accused by an international prosecutor but who cannot defend himself.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:28

    Roux: I insist that on the 20t of Jan that Merhi team's presence would have not corrected the state of affairs and would have been illusory.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:27

    Roux: We voice our reservations on the legal term used in such circumstances.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:26

    Roux: A mute advocate simply does not exist in the rules.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:24

    Roux: Merhi's defense team thanks the Trial Chamber for allowing it to participate in the trial as observers.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:23

    Roux: The defense is by no means responsible for this state of affairs resulting from decisions made by the prosecutor which isn't for me to judge.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:22

    Roux: It was impossible for the Merhi case to be ready for commencement of trial.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:22

    Roux: 13 months after the indictment the ex-prosecutor Bellemare asked the judge to indict Merhi for being an accomplice. But the judge requested a separate indictment which came 17 months later in June 2013.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:21

    Roux: The prosecutor indicted Merhi long after the four accused. 2 years and 5 months after.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:18

    Roux: Better late than never doesn't hold in criminal justice.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:17

    Roux: The procedure in criminal justice has been laid down to set in motion that there is a tangible safeguard of the accused.

  • 20 January 2014, 11:16

    Head of the Defense Office Francois Roux expressed compassion with the victims.

Comments 21
Thumb Chupachups 20 January 2014, 11:21

Before everyone starts panicking.... There's enough for everyone ! (Chupachups that is)

Thumb Chupachups 20 January 2014, 11:51

Why did crush? ... Try Fanta

Thumb Chupachups 20 January 2014, 11:51

Drink*

Thumb Chupachups 20 January 2014, 11:52

Here, have a chupete u terrorist

Thumb popeye 20 January 2014, 11:27

The defense is defending suspects who refuse to appear before the court and cross examined...LOL.

Thumb Mystic 20 January 2014, 11:37

Why appear before a court, that has already falsely accused 4 innocent LAF generals.

Thumb Chupachups 20 January 2014, 11:56

Mystic the face on ur avatar looks stoned

Thumb popeye 20 January 2014, 11:48

he is looking for motive... does the sectarian HA need a motive to kill. Terrorists have their own motives that normal civilized people do not really understand. Let them cross examine the suspects and maybe when faced with the evidence they will confess to their motives and who ordered them to assassinate Hariri. The defense is only arguing procedural matters.

Thumb Mystic 20 January 2014, 11:51

They have been wrong before, so why shouldn't they now?

Thumb sevilla 20 January 2014, 12:05

At least the civilized world is affording your criminals a chance to defend themselves. When you killed Hariri you did not afford him the chance to defend himself. You judged him and executed him. Criminals the whole bunch of you..

Thumb _mowaten_ 20 January 2014, 12:21

by accusing hezbollah of killing hariri and considering them guilty before proving it, you're not affording them a chance. this tribunal is a joke

Missing lappeaudecouille 20 January 2014, 11:46

Very weak opening statements so far. That's just how i see it. Defendants won't stand a chance.

Default-user-icon hanna al hin (Guest) 20 January 2014, 11:51

why appear in a court when your team party has already killed you

Thumb Chupachups 20 January 2014, 12:11

" Korkmaz is making a claim that the Hariri killing was not a terrorist act under Lebanese law. "

LOOOOOL

Thumb ice-man 20 January 2014, 12:44

Yep.... for HA 3000 kgs of high explosives is less than what they normally use to celebrate every time Nasrallah appears on TV.

Thumb eagledawn 20 January 2014, 12:47

lol lol lol )))))

Thumb ice-man 20 January 2014, 14:44

Please, stick to the topic at hand. No need to discuss your whole personal life here and what your daily routines are!

Missing watan-libnan 20 January 2014, 15:45

To all those idiots that think this trial is a waste of time you show your intelligence which is zero. The men that are accused of this crime are all dead because the people who orchestrated it killed off all the witnesses and what ever evidence that could be used the only thing they couldn't kill of was the data information from the cell networks oh and remember they killed captain Wissam Eid who discovered the link and they also killed some of the politicians that favored the STL some of the clowns out there will say izrael did it with a drone but none of the evidence proves this idiotic theory as what would izrael gain by killing hariri on the other hand syria and iran through their agents in hizbollah thought it would advance their agenda but it back fired because they forgot who put hariri in lebanon in the first place (Saudi Arabia ) and the Saudis will get their way . in my opinion hizbollah are worth squat along with syria and iran.

Missing watan-libnan 20 January 2014, 16:30

Who mentioned wissam al hassan silly

Missing watan-libnan 20 January 2014, 16:37

The lebanese will get our country back from these criminals that claim to be a resistance you can bet on that

Missing watan-libnan 20 January 2014, 18:59

Keep watching your almanar tv and maybe your wilayet elfakhi will be delivered.