BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s investigative team is reinterviewing several Lebanese individuals to evaluate the events following the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, judicial sources told The Daily Star.
Beginning early last December, several unidentified individuals have been contacted by the office of State Prosecutor Hatem Madi and informed them that an STL team would be visiting.
Individuals slated to be interviewed are notified by phone, and once a venue and a time for the meeting is settled, a security team inspects the grounds beforehand, the sources said.
According to the sources, the new security measures adopted by the investigative team are deemed necessary because the STL no longer has a fixed headquarters to conduct interviews in Lebanon, since they left their offices in the Monteverde Hotel, located in the Metn district.
The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is the liaison between the STL and the Lebanese, according to an agreement signed by the government and the tribunal forbidding them to contact people directly.
Interviewers from the STL consist of three or four people of different nationalities and their respective interpreters.
The investigators are reiterating questions from an earlier investigation in 2005. These include details about phone calls they received after the explosion, the conversations they had with the callers and other questions about the identity of people whose numbers were in their possession. By the end of the interview, individuals are asked to sign a statement confirming their account of events.
The sources confided that people interviewed expressed astonishment by the accuracy of the investigation but were also surprised that the investigation is being rehashed eight years after the crime, which is set for trial soon.
When asked why these elements of the investigation are being repeated, STL spokesperson Marten Youssef said “it is part of its [the STL’s] mandate to interview witnesses; during the past period, it has been the focus of the OTP preparing for the trial in its case against the individuals accused of responsibility for the Feb. 14 attack.”
In an earlier interview with The Daily Star, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said that “Lebanon is still cooperating with the tribunal and that General Prosecutor Hatem Madi is meeting all the STL’s legal requests for Cabinet.”
STL Registrar Herman von Habel had informed Lebanese political figures he met in the last week that the tribunal departments were working as if the initial start date for the trial, set for March 25, is the final one.
He said for this reason preparations are under way on security, logistical and administrative levels, noting that this did not imply that the date would not be subject to change.
Von Habel also discussed with Prime Minister Najib Mikati the STL’s 2013 budget and the importance of “Lebanon’s commitment to paying its share of financing the STL, which is 49 percent of the total budget estimated at $70 million.”
Qortbawi also told The Daily Star that Mikati had not discussed the issue of financing the tribunal, adding that he did not know what the prime minister would choose to do in this regard.