Lebanon News

Nasrallah aims to debunk STL's evidence

BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is to hold a news conference to demonstrate the unreliability of any tribunal indictment based on telecommunication records, if parties fail to reach a breakthrough over the issue of false witnesses in the Cabinet, informed sources told The Daily Star Monday.

Sources from the March 8 coalition said the news conference to be held by Nasrallah would feature a technical team to demonstrate that telecommunication patterns could be manipulated to frame Hizbullah members in an upcoming indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

“Thus, it will prove the unreliability of any indictment based on such evidence,” a source added.

During the past few months, a number of spying networks for Israel have been uncovered by security bodies and other groups – those under suspicion include suspects at the state-owned Alfa mobile telecommunication network.

Hizbullah argues that spies for Israel could manipulate call patterns that occurred shortly prior to or after former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination in 2005. The STL has investigated the call patterns and Hizbullah believes that such information will be used in drafting an indictment against Hizbullah members.

A breakthrough has yet to appear on the horizon ahead of Wednesday’s Cabinet session, which has the issue of false witnesses on its agenda, as both the March 14 and March 8 camps continue to adhere to their positions.

While Hizbullah and its allies demand that the issue be referred to the Justice Council, ministers loyal to the March 14 camp insist that the council lacks jurisdiction to look into the case, according to a report by Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar.

Najjar’s report said the judiciary can rule on the issue of false witnesses and decide whether they should be put on trial prior to or following the release of a UN-backed tribunal’s upcoming indictment, but added that the issue falls outside the Justice Council’s jurisdiction.

However, the political bickering that threatens to paralyze the government, after ministers of the March 8 camp warned that they would suspend their participation in the Cabinet if the issue of false witnesses is not referred to the Justice Council, would unlikely lead to a vote if parties fail to reach consensus.

Minister of State Mona Ofeish told The Daily Star Monday that the president was pursuing significant efforts to reach a consensus over the issue and played down the chances of putting the matter to a vote.

Asked whether ministers close to Sleiman would vote alongside either the March 8 or March 14 forces, Ofeish said the president stood at “an equal distance” from both camps and sought consensus.

“Anyway, a vote is not on the agenda of the Cabinet and the issue was not even remotely discussed [by ministers close to the president],” she added.

Echoing Sleiman, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has repeatedly said he favors reaching a consensus rather than putting the issue to a vote. Sources from the March 8 coalition, said Jumblatt informed Nasrallah during a meeting on Sunday that ministers in his bloc would take sides with the resistance if a vote takes place.

The sources added that an agreement over the issue of false witnesses would pave the way for a resolution of the dispute over the STL indictment, while a failure in Saudi-Syrian efforts to reach a breakthrough in that direction would generate a critical political crisis.

But, according to the sources, the Syrian-Saudi summit held in Riyadh Sunday between President Bashar Assad and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz, though a positive due to the insistence of both leaders to preserve stability in Lebanon, failed to make any progress on the STL front.

The sources said that so far, all parties were in agreement over the need to refrain from bringing down the current government despite its relatively low productivity or near paralysis because of the STL-related controversies.





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