BEIRUT

Lubnan

Prosecution sheds light on ring of suspects

This is the third part in a series of articles leading up to the start of trial at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the court prosecuting those responsible for the Feb. 14, 2005, attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The series will explore the tribunal’s creation, unsolved political assassinations, and the views of victims in the run-up to trial which is due to begin on Jan. 16.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is obtained from the prosecution’s indictment and pretrial brief in the Hariri case. The allegations have not been proven in court.

Mustafa Badreddine

Charges:

Conspiracy aimed at committing a Terrorist Act;

Committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device;

Intentional homicide (of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials;

Intentional homicide (of 21 persons in addition to the intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials;

Attempted intentional homicide (of 231 persons in addition to the intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials.

Aliases: Sami Issa, Elias Fouad Saab, Safi Badr

Date of birth: April 6, 1961

Place of birth: Ghobeiri

Residence: Unknown

Associated addresses: The property of Khalil al-Rai, Abdullah al-Hajj Street, Ghobeiri; and the Al-Jinan Building, Al-Odaimi Street, Haret Hreik.

Nationality: Lebanese.

In 1984, the State Security Court of Kuwait convicted a 23-year-old man called Elias Fouad Saab in connection with the 1983 attacks against the American and French embassies there.

Saab was accused of planning and implementing the attacks against the embassies. He would later be sentenced to death, only to escape during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

According to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s prosecutor, Elias Saab was simply one of Mustafa Badreddine’s aliases.

“The series of terrorist attacks carried out in Kuwait on 12 December 1983 present similar or analogous features with the attack against Hariri with regards to the participation of Badreddine, who coordinated and monitored the preparation and perpetration of all these attacks just as he later did in relation to the Hariri attack,” the prosecution said in its pretrial brief, a court document.

“All these attacks were committed through the detonation of explosives stored in or under motorized vehicles in public streets, in broad day light.”

This, the prosecution claimed, showed a “pattern of conduct” that served to support their allegations against Badreddine.

The prosecution’s indictment and pretrial brief, which details its case theory and elaborates on the charges in the indictment, paint a more detailed picture of Badreddine than the other suspects.

He is described as a “supporter” of Hezbollah in the documents, a term the prosecution must use since it cannot prove his membership in the party.

Badreddine is believed by the prosecution to be the overall coordinator of the Hariri assassination. He is accused of coordinating the surveillance of Hariri prior to the attack, monitoring the setup for the bombing and preparing a false claim of responsibility.

He is also alleged to have coordinated the purchase of the Mitsubishi Canter van that was loaded with 2,500 kg of explosives, and whose detonation claimed the life of Hariri along with 21 others.

Five mobile phone numbers, used in a network of telephones linked to the attack between September 2004 and November 2005, allegedly belonged to Badreddine. He was part of the “green network” of telephones, used by leaders of the assassination team to monitor Hariri and coordinate his surveillance, as well as to prepare details for the false claim of responsibility following the attack.

The indictment, for example, describes several times in the run-up to the assassination during which phones belonging to Badreddine were in close contact with those lines linked to other suspects, including Salim Ayyash and Hassan Merhi, a fifth suspect later indicted by the court.

The incidents included milestone moments in the surveillance, which allegedly took place with the intent to assassinate the former Lebanese premier and occurred at locations near his residences, Parliament and the crime scene.

These key records show calls around the time of the disappearance of Abu Adass, a man who appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the attack on behalf of a group called “Nusra and Jihad in Greater Syria” and who the prosecution said was coerced.

Badreddine was also in touch with Ayyash during the purchasing of the Mitsubishi van, fragments of which were found at the scene of the bombing, and during alleged surveillance of Hariri at the Imam Ali Mosque during eid prayers, near Qoreitem Palace and the Higher Shiite Council and by the St. Georges Yacht Club.

Badreddine was allegedly in contact with Ayyash 59 times between New Year’s Day 2005 and Feb. 14, the day of the assassination.

After the attack, nearly all of the assassination team, including Badreddine, was allegedly present in the same area of south Beirut.

On the day of the attack, Ayyash allegedly contacted Badreddine on his phone on the green network for 14 seconds. Then the green network ceased to operate.

He has a problem with his leg, which causes him to walk with a limp and wear special shoes, following an incident in which he burned his leg on a heater. He also has poor eyesight. Badreddine studied political science at the Lebanese American University from 2002 to 2004, where he was known as Sami Issa or Safi Badr.

The pretrial brief describes an incident in which an LAU classmate was asked by “Sami Issa” to pick up a degree certificate for a man named “Mustafa Badreddine.”

As Issa, Badreddine also allegedly owned a jewelry store called Samino, a boat with the same name and an apartment in Jounieh, “where he entertained friends.”

The prosecution described mobile phone and SMS data gathered from personal phones allegedly belonging to Badreddine, or Issa, which it said corroborated his identity.

The user of “PMP 663,” a personal mobile phone identified with Badreddine, called himself Sami Issa, Sami Samino and Samino in SMS messages. He received birthday greetings on April 6, 2004, and 2005, which is also Badreddine’s birthday, and attended university at the same time as Badreddine.

The phone had a list of contacts that the prosecution claims includes known “girlfriends” and university friends of Sami Issa, his bodyguards, business associates, Badreddine family members and Hezbollah members.

In the wee hours of the morning of the assassination, Badreddine allegedly sent an SMS to a female associate saying: “If you knew where I have been you would be very upset.”

The prosecution says these details help prove that Badreddine used the alias Sami Issa.

The prosecution believes that another phone used by Badreddine was also used by both him and his daughter. They also used telephone data to link him to some family members, including a sister.

The purpose of confirming Badreddine’s ownership of these personal phones is to use that evidence in a technique known as “co-location,” where investigators show that both his personal phone and the phone used in the assassination network were in the same place at the same time, thus proving that they belong to the same person.

Investigators can show this by, for instance, looking at whether a personal and network phone were often used within just a few minutes of each other or activated the same cell tower.

Salim Jamil Ayyash

Charges:

Conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act;

Committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device;

Intentional homicide (of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials;

Intentional homicide (of 21 persons in additional to the international homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials;

Attempted intentional homicide (of 231 persons in addition to the intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials.

Date of Birth: Nov. 10, 1963

Place of Birth: Harouf, Nabatieh

Residence: Al-Jammous Street Tabajah building, Hadath, south Beirut and Ayyash family compound, Harouf

Nationality: Lebanese

Ayyash, an alleged Hezbollah supporter, was instrumental in planning the Hariri attack by coordinating the surveillance, the purchase of the Mitsubishi van used in the suicide bombing and the false claim of responsibility aimed to throw investigators off the trail, investigators say.

Specifically, the prosecution claims that Ayyash visited the Tripoli showroom where the Mitsubishi van used in the suicide attack was purchased two weeks later. The two individuals who purchased the car, using fake names and paying in cash, contacted Ayyash during the price negotiations for the Mitsubishi.

Three weeks before the assassination, Ayyash and Badreddine used the same cell phone near the Grand Mosque where Hariri was scheduled to appear in the following days.

In the days before the attack, Ayyash’s cell phone records indicate that he was often in the vicinity of Hariri. Minutes before the assassination, Ayyash was located near the St. Georges Hotel and conversed with an unnamed member of the so-called “assassination team,” identified by a network of eight phones which were activated together in January 2005 and turned off simultaneously two minutes before the bomb exploded.

Another court document notes that “the risk that Mr. Ayyash might commit further offences of the same kind [as the Hariri assassination] is substantiated given that he might be implicated in other acts of a similar nature in Lebanon,” but does not elaborate.

Hussein Hassan Oneissi, born Hussein Hassan Issa

Charges:

Conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act;

Being an accomplice to the felony of committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device;

Being an accomplice to the felony of the intentionalhomicide (of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by usingexplosive materials;

Being an accomplice to the felony of intentional homicide (of 21 persons in addition to Intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials;

Being an accomplice to the felony of attempted intentional homicide (of 231 persons in addition to the intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials.

Aliases: Hussein Hassan Issa

Date of birth: Feb. 11, 1974

Place of Birth: Beirut

Hussein Hassan Issa legally changed his family name to Oneissi at a Jwayya court in early 2004. Oneissi, according to prosecutors, is also a Hezbollah supporter and orchestrated the false claim of responsibility disseminated by media in the hours after the attack along with Assad Hassan Sabr.

According to court documents, in early January 2005, Oneissi posed as a man named Mohammad and introduced himself to a Palestinian by the name of Ahmad Abu Adass, who sometimes led prayers at the Arab University Mosque of Beirut. Oneissi “claimed to be a Muslim who was brought up in an orphanage and asked Abu Adass to teach him how to pray,” the pretrial brief says. “The two met on several occasions over the next few weeks.”

On Jan. 16 of that same year, Abu Adass disappeared.

An hour after the attack, Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra allegedly called media outlets Al-Jazeera and Reuters claiming the attack was committed by Nusra and Jihad Group in Greater Syria and informed Al-Jazeera of the existence of a videotape located in a tree in Riad al-Solh Square. In the videotape, Abu Adass claims responsibility for the attack, although his DNA was not found at the crime scene.

Assad Hassan Sabra

Charges:

Conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act;

Being an accomplice to the felony of committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device;

Being an accomplice to the felony of the intentionalhomicide (of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by usingexplosive materials;

Being an accomplice to the felony of intentional homicide (of 21 persons in addition to Intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials

Being an accomplice to the felony of attempted intentional homicide (of 231 persons in addition to the intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials.

Date of Birth: Oct. 15, 1976

Place of Birth: Beirut

Assad Sabra, also an alleged Hezbollah supporter, worked closely with Oneissi to execute the false claim of responsibility, court documents say. Sabra was often in contact with Oneissi and, in the days leading up to Adass’ disappearance, was in the vicinity of the Arab University Mosque. His phone had not been in the area since the day after Adass disappeared. The prosecution claims it has identified Sabra as the person who called Al-Jazeera informing reporters about the videotape at Riad al-Solh.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 10, 2014, on page 2.

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Summary

This is the third part in a series of articles leading up to the start of trial at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the court prosecuting those responsible for the Feb. 14, 2005, attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

Intentional homicide (of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials;

Attempted intentional homicide (of 231 persons in addition to the intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials.

Intentional homicide (of 21 persons in additional to the international homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials;

Being an accomplice to the felony of attempted intentional homicide (of 231 persons in addition to the intentional homicide of Rafik Hariri) with premeditation by using explosive materials.


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