BEIRUT: Defense lawyers at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon suggested that police investigators did not adequately look into the possibility that an underground explosion killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The hints came during the cross-examination of a secret witness who managed a team of explosives experts at the Internal Security Forces. The team worked on the scene of the Hariri assassination and concluded that the bombing that killed the former prime minister was an aboveground explosion.
The witness, whose identity was concealed to protect him, said the ISF explosives team determined that a Mitsubishi Canter van was at the center of the explosion after identifying a piece from its engine block found at the bottom of the crater left by the bombing that had been subjected to much higher heat during the explosion than other damaged cars in the vicinity.
He said the team had initially considered the possibility that one of the Mercedes cars in Hariri’s convoy was the source of the explosion.
The ISF concluded that the bomb was above ground, whereas Lebanese Army investigators stuck to the theory that the bomb was below the ground, the witness said.
Defense lawyers for Mustafa Badreddine, a member of Hezbollah accused of complicity in the attack, questioned the witness, asking whether the crime scene investigation was a “rushed job” and whether ISF investigators overlooked other possibilities, including that the bombing was underground.
The witness said there had been no predetermined decision to pursue the Mitsubishi lead.
Defense lawyers contend that the bombing was likely a underground explosion, which would cast much of the prosecution’s theory in doubt.
The tribunal Friday will question a British officer who took part in an operation to recover pieces of the Mitsubishi van from the seabed in the vicinity of the St. Georges Hotel.
The STL is tasked with investigating the Feb 14, 2005, bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others. Trial began last month at the tribunal’s headquarters in The Hague.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 07, 2014, on page 4.