STL Hears Testimony on Telecommunications Data Row

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon heard on Thursday the controversy on telecommunications data that erupted in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.

MP Marwan Hamadeh, who is the first politician to appear in court as a witness in the in absentia trial of five Hizbullah members, provided answers during the cross-examination of defense counsel Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse.

He admitted that when as telecom minister he “took the lid off the provision of data according to the agreement signed with the Lebanese government” he was no longer following the issue.

The U.N. commission investigating Hariri's murder in a suicide car bombing on the Beirut seafront had examined telecom data, which later the STL Prosecution based its circumstantial evidence on.

“I think we should have brought here all the files of the ministry of telecommunications so that we could have a complete and not a selected view,” said Hamadeh.

“The lawyer is trying to imply that I was on a one man show in this operation,” he added.

But defense counsel Courcelle-Labrousse replied: “Had I had the documents I would have displayed them. The prosecution is refusing to disclose them to me.”

Hamadeh accused successive telecom ministers of blocking the telecom data from the international investigators.

At first, “the system was unblocked for the provision of the database,” said Hamadeh.

“But after the government of Mr. (Fouad) Saniora resigned (in June 2008), new ministers of telecommunications started putting conditions and barriers to the provision of this data to the commission and then the prosecutor,” added the lawmaker.

He said the ministers were members of the Free Patriotic Movement allied with Hizbullah.

On Wednesday, another defense lawyer claimed there had been frequent meetings between Hariri and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who had formed a parliamentary committee to set the stage for a Sunni-Shiite alliance that was set to be announced in 2005.

Hamadeh revealed to the court that Hariri had met with Nasrallah about a month before the Valentine’s Day assassination.

The two officials had regular contacts ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections, the lawmaker said.

Hamadeh also revealed that Nasrallah told him in a secret meeting in either April or May 2005 that he “did not know” if Syria was behind his Oct. 1 assassination attempt.



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