BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Judiciary to interview journalists close to Hasan

Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan smiles in this Tuesday, July 31, 2007. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The judiciary is likely to request witness statements from four journalists who had close relations with slain Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, security sources told The Daily Star Wednesday.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the four journalists work in well-known Lebanese media outlets and maintained “good professional relationships” with the top intelligence official, who was killed in a car bomb last week.

The sources also said the probe is looking into why Hasan returned to Beirut the day before his assassination, despite the fact that he told two senior police officials that he would spend the Eid al-Adha holiday with his family in Paris. Eid al-Adha is this Friday.

The police officials were attending a conference in Germany with Hasan when he told them of his plans.

Detectives are also examining telecoms data and attempting to identify the explosives used by type and the country of origin. According to the sources, investigators strongly believe the explosives came from Europe.

Prosecutor General Hatem Madi neither confirmed nor denied Monday a report published by Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper Wednesday that a female Lebanese journalist, believed to be one of the four, had an appointment to meet Hasan at his Ashrafieh house several hours before he was killed.

The newspaper said that the judiciary would ask investigators to take a statement from the journalist to determine whether she told anyone about her appointment or the location of Hasan’s safe house. It added that the courts would inquire how and when she contacted Hasan.

Madi said there were no new developments in the investigation that he was at liberty to discuss.

“So far there have been no arrests or suspects and when someone is arrested, we will make it public,” Madi told The Daily Star after chairing a meeting of the security bodies involved in the probe.

“The investigation is ongoing ... through gathering evidence, analyzing information, studying the reports of forensic teams and explosives experts along with analyzing telecommunications and photos taken by cameras at the site before and after the explosion.”

The Internal Security Forces said that most media reports about the investigation have been inaccurate, urging the media not to report on the probe.

“The General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces assures people that it is conducting the required investigation with high professionalism and under the supervision of relevant judiciary,” a statement read.

Because of what it called the inaccuracy of reporting on the subject, the statement added that “the general directorate urges all media outlets to exercise caution [in reporting] and not to tackle investigation ... because this might harm the course of investigation and confuse people.”

The March 14 coalition has accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of standing behind the assassination of Hasan, who maintained close ties former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the leader of the opposition. The alliance has called for Hasan’s case to be referred to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Speaking to The Daily Star, STL spokesperson Marten Youssef said that for the case to be referred to the court, the attack would have to be connected to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“In order for a case after Dec. 12, 2005, to be added to the STL jurisdiction there are a number of rigorous steps that have to be taken. The STL prosecutor must first consider an attack to be connected to the Feb. 14, 2005, [bombing] and shall then ask the STL president and registrar to inform the U.N. secretary-general of that connection,” Youssef said.

“It would then be up to the Lebanese government and the Security Council whether or not to grant the tribunal jurisdiction,” he added. Hasan was a member of Rafik Hariri’s security team before becoming the head of the ISF Information Branch.

Hezbollah opposes referring the case to the STL. The government has passed the case to the Justice Council, which is tasked with dealing with threats to national security.

Calling the assassination a “tragedy and a reminder of the importance of our work,” Youssef said the STL is determined to carry on with its mandate, expecting the Lebanese government to continue its cooperation with the court.

For his part, Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali dismissed accusations that his country was involved in Hasan’s killing.

“Syria is busy with its own local crisis. It had nothing to do with the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan,” the ambassador said.

Ali said his country condemns the attack, and denounces all political assassinations in Lebanon.

“It is in no one’s benefit to address a political accusation against Syria. This will damage brotherly ties between the two countries,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 25, 2012, on page 3.

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