Lebanon News

STL hears fresh witness testimony after hiatus

File - Defense lawyers for Hassan Habib Merhi attend Thursday's hearing at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. (The Daily Star/STL, HO)

BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon began hearing fresh witness testimony Tuesday in the trial of five members of Hezbollah accused of complicity in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, after a four-month hiatus.

Judges listened as a Lebanese military police investigator recounted finding the body of a bombing victim under one of the cars destroyed by the gruesome explosion – a week after the bombing.

But the investigator, who spoke by videolink from the tribunal’s offices in the Beirut mountain suburb of Monte Verde, his face and voice distorted as a protective measure, said the delay in finding the body was not an indication of negligence by security forces.

The body found belonged to Mahmoud al-Mohammad, one of the victims of the attack.

The military police investigator said the body had been badly burned when it was found under a vehicle very close to the center of the blast.

Lebanese security forces have often been accused of negligence in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination, as well as of tampering with the crime scene.

Zahi Bou Rjeily, another victim of the attack, had died under the rubble hours after the bombing after security officers denied access to the crime scene by his family. His body was found shortly after his death, sparking the family’s ire.

The U.N.-backed tribunal indicted five members of Hezbollah in connection with the attack.

The investigator was cross-examined by lawyers for Hassan Merhi, a suspect accused of playing a leading role in the conspiracy.

The lawyers asked him about the procedure for preserving evidence from the scene of such bombings, and about the hierarchy of the military police.

The tribunal will continue hearing testimony from witnesses throughout the week. Wednesday’s hearing will begin at 11 a.m. Beirut time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 25, 2014, on page 3.




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