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Matt Nash

Connecting the dots?

Marwan Hamadeh and May Chidiac tell NOW they hope for indictments

Hamadeh attacked

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands – The wind blew cold outside of the seat of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Friday afternoon as former minister Marwan Hamadeh walked from interview to interview during a lunch break on the second day of trial.

 

On October 1, 2005, a 33-pound bomb placed in a parked car detonated as Hamadeh drove by. The blast killed Ghazi Abu Karrum, Hamadeh’s bodyguard, severely injured the driver, and caused minor injuries to Hamadeh’s face and hands.

 

Before long, many Lebanese believed the attack was the beginning of a wider orchestrated effort to kill politicians and prominent figures critical of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

 

On February 14, 2005, a far more massive car bomb had killed former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 21 others. Public outrage in Lebanon along with pressure from the international community forced the Syrian military – which had been present in Lebanon since 1976 – to withdraw from the country in April 2005.

 

Between March and May, 2005, five different bombs exploded in mostly Christian areas outside of Beirut, injuring a total of 53 people and killing three, according to news reports from the time. In June 2005, both prominent journalist Samir Kassir and former Communist Party leader George Hawi were killed in car bombings.

 

By Christmas of that year, three more bombs went off in Christian-dominated neighborhoods of Beirut – killing one and injuring at least 33, according to news reports. Additionally, separate car bombings killed journalist and politician Gebran Tueini and wounded journalists Ali Ramez Tomeh and May Chidiac, along with politician Elias al-Murr.

 

Shortly after the Hariri assassination, the UN sent a fact-finding mission to help Lebanese authorities investigate the crime. By the end of 2005, the Lebanese government – then headed by Fouad Siniora – requested the establishment of an international tribunal to try Hariri’s killers. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established by UN Security Council resolution 1757 on May 30, 2007, although the court did not officially begin functioning until March 1, 2009.

 

The court was given a mandate to investigate both the Hariri assassination and attacks “connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice” and “of a nature and gravity similar to” the bombing on February 14, 2005 provided they occurred between October 1, 2004 and December 12, 2005. Attacks outside of the designated timeframe can be added to the court’s mandate should a request to do so be made by both the UN and the Lebanese government with the consent of the Security Council.

 

In a still-confidential ruling on August 5, 2011, the pre-trial judge at the tribunal decided the prosecution has amassed enough evidence to demonstrate that the attacks against Hamadeh, Hawi, and Murr were connected to the Hariri case. To date, however, no indictments have been issued in the connected cases.

 

The pre-trial judge’s decision meant the cases were thereafter under the tribunal’s jurisdiction and subsequently ordered the Lebanese authorities to hand their entire case files to the STL concerning the three connected cases.

 

“The Lebanese authorities should have nothing in their files any more about these cases because they should have transferred every single thing, every single document” to the court, STL spokesman Marten Youssef told NOW during a break in the trial on Friday.

 

The fact that the STL now has jurisdiction over the three cases means the “Lebanese can no longer prosecute these cases,” Youssef said. He added that Lebanese authorities can “absolutely not” continue to investigate the cases on their own.

 

That said, the prosecution may, he explained, request assistance from the Lebanese authorities to investigate the connected cases if the prosecutor believes such help is needed.

 

As for whether or not indictments will come soon in the connected cases, Youssef said only that prosecutor Norman Farrell “has specified that he intends to submit indictments in those cases, but hasn’t yet.”

 

According to court records, however, the prosecutor at one point did intend to offer evidence related to the connected cases in the current trial against Mustafa Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 49, Hussein Anaissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 36. While the connected cases – and evidence against any of the accused related to them – were not mentioned in the prosecution’s indictment of the four men, they showed up in a heavily redacted portion of the prosecution’s November 15, 2012 pre-trial brief.

 

In part of the brief, the prosecution outlined “evidence on the connected cases against the accused,” which it intended to use at trial. Defense for Ayyash swiftly objected and later called the move “an abuse of process.” How evidence in relation to the connected cases was to be used against the men – and whether that evidence will be admissible in court – is not public at this point.

 

Indeed, most litigation on the prosecution’s intention to use evidence related to the connected cases in the current trial is confidential. However, defense for Ayyash said in an April 9, 2013 submission that the prosecution argues the “evidence on three connected cases” it plans to present at trial “is demonstrative of a consistent pattern of conduct of Ayyash and Badreddine, which is probative of crimes alleged in the Indictment.”

 

Defense for Ayyash argued against allowing the prosecution to submit connected case evidence in the current trial because, in part, Ayyash and Badreddine have not been charged with participating in the crimes covered by the connected cases (which would require a new indictment against them in relation to the three cases).

 

“The current operative indictment does not contain any reference to the connected cases, yet the Pre-Trial Brief contains new allegations related directly to the acts and conduct of Ayyash and Badreddine. Thus, the Prosecutor levels accusations of the utmost gravity against these accused, while exempting himself from the duty to prove these allegations beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ayyash’s defense team said.

 

Court spokesman Marten Youssef told NOW the prosecution’s request to submit “evidence in relation to the connected cases against the accused as a part of the ‘consistent pattern of conduct’ argument against them” has since been withdrawn. 

 

For their part, Chidiac – whose cases has still not been deemed connected – and Hamadeh – whose case was found to be connected to Hariri’s murder – told NOW in court on Thursday and Friday, respectively, that they are still confident the tribunal will bring them justice one way or another.

 

“We were told that they found some links between the accused people [in the current case before the tribunal] and the different, other [connected] cases,” Chidiac told NOW. “While in my case, it’s not related to these phone numbers or evidence [being presented in the current trial], but that doesn’t mean in the future this link won’t be found.”

 

This article was amended on January 19, 2014 to reflect a comment that came in after initial publication. 

The car bomb that injured Marwan Hamadeh and destroyed his vehicle was deemed connected to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, but no suspects have been indicted yet. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

“We were told that they found some links between the accused people [in the current case before the tribunal] and the different, other [connected] cases.”