BEIRUT: Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare appealed pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen’s decision with regard to former Major General Jamil al-Sayyed’s demand to access his criminal file on Thursday, amid rising tensions over the funding of the UN court.
Earlier this month, Fransen said the court had jurisdiction to rule on Sayyed’s right to access his criminal file on condition that such right does not compromise ongoing investigations.
In his appeal, Bellemare applied “for urgent suspensive effect of the order” on the grounds that the pre-trial judge erred “in applying the wrong test” in determining inherent jurisdiction and standing as well as the interpretation of the rules of procedure and evidence’s disclosure regime. Bellemare backed the grounds of his appeal by elaborating on the legal basis behind them.
Sayyed made the request for his file to launch proceedings in Lebanese courts against former witnesses whom Sayyed condemned along with opposition parties as “false witnesses” who misled investigations by a UN investigation committee which preceded the establishment of the STL, leading to his arrest.
The issue of false witnesses has led to a heated debate among the Lebanese in recent weeks after the parliamentary opposition, and particularly Hizbullah, slammed the STL as biased and doubted its credibility for failing to put false witnesses on trial.
Hizbullah officials confirmed on Wednesday that ministers loyal to the opposition would block the 2011 draft budget article relating to the STL funding during the Cabinet’s session on Monday.
However, with only 10 ministers out of 30, it remains ambiguous as to how opposition parties would succeed in their quest, unless one of the five ministers loyal to President Michel Sleiman were to vote alongside minority ministers, raising the number opposed to 11.
According to the Constitution, two-thirds of the vote in favor of the budget is required to pass it to Parliament.
Separately, Saudi envoy to Lebanon Ali al-Assiri told LBC TV Thursday that the STL was an entity independent of the Lebanese Cabinet and urged the Lebanese to use dialogue to address the repercussions of the STL’s forthcoming indictment.
During the same talk show, the Syrian envoy, Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, told LBC TV that Hariri should follow up with practical steps on his condemnations, earlier this month, of false witnesses.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Tuesday endorsed Hizbullah’s position and slammed the STL as a politicized entity. Both the Syrian and Saudi envoys met with Premier Saad Hariri Thursday.
Hizbullah has condemned the STL as an “Israeli project.”
Commenting on Hizbullah MP Nawwaf Moussawi’s accusation of those supporting the STL as “Israelis and Zionists,” Phalange Party MP Sami Gemayel said: “If this is Hizbullah’s official position then let them announce it officially.”
Gemayel added that doubting the credibility of the STL and portraying it as “a politicized” entity aimed to turn “logic to falsehood.”
Opposition MPs on Tuesday blocked the article concerning the funding of the STL during the Budget and Finance parliamentary committee meeting, leaving Parliament’s general assembly to decide on the issue.
Apart from the expected heated debate over funding in the Cabinet’s upcoming session on Monday, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar is expected to submit his ministry’s recommendations on the legal framework governing the issue of false witnesses before the Cabinet.
Speaker Nabih Berri told the daily An-Nahar in remarks published Thursday that “the political situation cannot remain in its current form of stalemate and I can assure you that the Cabinet will convene and will be chaired by the president when the justice minister presents his study on false witnesses.”
March 14 parties maintain the position that former witnesses could not be judged as false witnesses before the STL’s indictment is issued and findings are made public.