BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon rejected a request by the editor of Al-Akhbar newspaper for a postponement of his contempt hearing, scheduled for Thursday, saying there was no excuse to delay his appearance.
Ibrahim al-Amin, the editor-in-chief of the pro-Hezbollah daily, is accused of contempt and obstruction of justice by The Hague-based court, which is tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.
The allegations are linked to reports that included the details of individuals the newspaper claimed are witnesses in the case. The STL argues that publishing these details endangers the lives of the individuals, whether or not they are witnesses, and undermines public confidence in the tribunal.
Amin was initially supposed to appear before the court in mid-May, on the same day as Karma al-Khayyat, a senior editor at Al Jadeed TV, who is also accused of contempt of court.
But Amin refused to attend the hearing, saying he had not been able to appoint a defense lawyer.
In another letter to the court before Thursday’s hearing, Amin asked that the hearing be postponed by a serious sufficient period of time.”
Among the issues Amin wants the court to address before his hearing is the very right of the court to try Lebanese journalists for contempt.
But the STL’s contempt judge said the issues raised by Amin can be addressed after his initial appearance before the court.
“There is no reason to once again postpone Mr AI Amin' s and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. 's appearances before me,”Judge Nicola Lettieri said in an order published on the tribunal’s website. “All the matters that Mr AI Amin is concerned about can and will be raised before me, but at a public hearing.”
The trial has caused controversy in Lebanon, where the court’s opponents accuse it of stifling freedom of the press.