THE HAGUE: Mustafa Badreddine, the alleged “apex” of the team accused of killing former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was described as a “ghost” by the prosecution of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Friday as the second day of the historic trial drew to a close.
The prosecution further outlined the telecoms evidence it relied on to identify five Hezbollah suspects being tried over the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 other victims.
The prosecution team also drew a portrait of Abu Adass, the man they say appeared in a false claim of responsibility for the Feb. 14, 2005, attack in Downtown Beirut.
The prosecution offered an intriguing glimpse into Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah operative accused of being the “overall controller” of the Hariri assassination. The prosecution described him as a “ghost,” with at least two identities.
He drove an expensive Mercedes-Benz and had an apartment in Jounieh, “several concurrent girlfriends” and was seen regularly in restaurants and cafes, accompanied by armed bodyguards, the prosecution alleged. He had five children from his first marriage and a sixth child from a second wife.
Personal records of Badreddine are rare after 2000, they said. He was never issued a passport or driver’s license, the prosecutor added, and was not the registered owner of any properties in Lebanon.
He has never officially left Lebanon nor does he have any bank accounts, and there are no photographs of him at the time of the blast.
He was “fastidious in avoiding having his picture taken.”
“This was well-funded, well-organized and meticulously planned over a long period of time,” said senior trial counsel Graham Cameron, who described Badreddine as the “apex” of the assassination cell.
“Badreddine passes as an unrecognizable and untraceable ghost throughout Lebanon, leaving no footprint as he passes.”
The prosecution began the proceedings by elaborating on an alleged false claim of responsibility in which a man named Abu Adass took credit for the Hariri bombing on behalf of a fictitious group called Nusra and Jihad in Greater Syria.
They outlined telecommunications evidence they said showed Hussein Oneissi, a suspect accused of orchestrating the false claim, in the vicinity of Arab University Mosque where Abu Adass regularly prayed, and where he met a man called “Mohammad.”
The prosecution says Mohammad and Oneissi are the same man.
Oneissi was also in contact around that time on the “purple network” of telephones with Assad Sabra and Hassan Merhi, two of the other suspects in the case.
The purple network is a group of telephones allegedly used by the group involved in orchestrating the false claim of responsibility.
The network showed activity farther away from Abu Adass’ mosque and home coinciding with weeklong disappearances by him.
The prosecutor also offered a chilling account of the disappearance of Abu Adass, saying he told his family he would be leaving on the day he disappeared with “Mohammad,” who had prepared a “surprise,” and would be back later that day to help with cleaning a carpet.
He left on Jan. 16, 2005, leaving his belongings and copy of the Quran at home, never to return.
Prosecutors say his decision to leave behind his belongings indicated he believed he would only be gone a short time.
The prosecution also discussed the purchase of the Mitsubishi Canter van that was loaded with 2 tons of explosives ahead of the attack.
The van was on display in December 2004 in a car dealership in Beddawi in Tripoli and purchased on Jan. 25, 2005.
The blue and yellow networks of telephones, which are linked to the purchase of the van ahead of the assassination, were activated in an area north of Tripoli around the time of the purchase, the prosecution said.
During the proceedings, the prosecution also offered a portrait of Abu Adass aimed at disproving the theory he had carried out the killing, with the devastating revelation that he was not even able to drive.
Abu Adass was painted as a frail and simple man, who lacked the confidence and even driving skills to maneuver the manual-transmission, massive Mitsubishi Canter van laden with explosives to the desired spot to kill Hariri.
The prosecution said Abu Adass was most likely dead now.
The prosecution sought to explain the fact that none of the suspects in the alleged conspiracy spoke out about the crime or turned against the cell, by saying they shared special bonds of kinship and religion.
All the suspects are Shiites who lived within a couple of kilometers of each other in south Beirut, the prosecution said.
In addition, Salim Ayyash, another suspect in the case, is married to a relative of Badreddine.
“Despite the enormity of the contemplated crime, no one broke ranks and informed after the crime, the most horrendous in Lebanese history,” said senior trial counsel Graham Cameron.