THE HAGUE: The trial of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri questioned Thursday an expert on CCTV footage offering an eerie view of the moments before the attack with glimpses of Hariri's convoy and the allegedly explosives-laden van that ripped through Downtown Beirut.
The footage from the HSBC bank surveillance cameras shows what appears to be the Mitsubishi Canter van moving ten times slower than the traffic along the road where Hariri's convoy is destroyed. The prosecution alleges the Mitsubishi van carried two tons of explosives.
The former premier's convoy appears in the footage approximately a minute after the van was seen. Moments later, the camera is almost completely knocked out by the force of the explosion and a cloud of dust engulfs the image.
The prosecution also showed images taken by the HSBC CCTV cameras which depict the moment of the explosion without capturing the actual van being detonated. The images briefly show pedestrians reacting to the force of the explosion as well as a flash at the moment of the bombing that lights up nearby buildings and cars in a mock sunrise.
Robyn Fraser, the first expert witness to testify before the court, said the van appeared to be the same one captured by other CCTV cameras as it emerged from the Suleiman Frangieh tunnel and seen on the Phoenicia Hotel's CCTV before the explosion.
The defense plans to contest the very fact that the van was a Mitsubishi Canter, one of the key components of the prosecution's narrative. The prosecution claims its telecommunications data allowed it to track a network of operatives involved in the van's purchase.
The defense says the attack may have been an underground explosion.
Fraser said the dimensions and structure of the van, as well as the covering on its rear, all appeared to show that it was the same van captured in all the CCTV footage.
Fraser revealed that a team of German police experts had tried to enhance the image of the van captured by the CCTV cameras in order to see who was in the driver's cabin, but failed due to the low quality of the footage.
Investigators were able to estimate the speed of the van by looking at a pedestrian walking towards the HSBC bank, whose glass windows were shattered by the force of the explosion.
This was the second day of testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, as proceedings began in earnest after opening statements by the prosecution, defense and victims lawyers late last week and on Monday.
Five members of Hezbollah have been indicted by the court in connection with the 2005 Valentine's Day bombing that killed Hariri and 21 other victims, four of whom are currently being tried in absentia at the tribunal's headquarters in Leidschendam, a suburb of The Hague.