The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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November 14, 2014

The Daily Star - Key witness Hamade to testify at STL next week, November 14, 2014

Kareem Shaheen

MP Marwan Hamade, who survived an assassination attempt in 2004, will be called to testify Monday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to detail the breakdown in relations between former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad, prosecutors said Thursday. The announcement of Hamade’s testimony came as defense lawyers said they had received from the prosecution evidence linked to Assad’s telephone, as well as testimony by the assassinated Lebanese intelligence chief Wissam Hasan.

The bombshell revelation is the latest twist in the case ahead of the next phase of trial, which will begin next week and will focus on Syria’s role in destabilizing Lebanon ahead of Hariri’s assassination.

“This ghost of the Syrians is coming out of the cupboard,” said Philippe Larochelle, a lawyer for Hussein Oneissi, one of the suspects in the case, arguing that prosecutors had already built their case on reams of telecommunications evidence and had not previously pointed to Syria.

“How are you going to fit the Syrians into this?” he asked.

The STL is tasked with prosecuting the people responsible for the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri as well as 21 others.

The attack brought international opprobrium on the Syrian regime, which was suspected of orchestrating the attack due to the breakdown of relations between Assad and Hariri, especially over the extension of then-President Emile Lahoud’s term and the passage of Resolution 1559 ordering the disarming of Hezbollah and Syria’s departure from Lebanon.

But the STL instead indicted five members of Hezbollah in connection with the attack, and their trial in absentia is ongoing in The Hague.

The second phase of the trial is set to begin next week. In it, prosecutors hope to detail the intricate tracking of the telephones of the suspects, showing their surveillance of Hariri ahead of the assassination.

But the other, more controversial aspect of the second phase of trial is the prosecution’s plan to detail the political context in Lebanon and the deterioration of relations with Syria, in what could be a first step toward expanding the scope of the case and pinpointing a political motive for Hariri’s killing, dragging Syria back into the case.

Thirteen prominent politicians, journalists and advisers to Hariri are set to testify before the STL in the coming weeks on the deterioration of relations with Syria in the six months before the assassination, sparked by his attempts to “strengthen Lebanon’s independence,” said Graeme Cameron, the prosecution’s senior trial counsel.

Cameron said the testimony would show that Syria was “determined” as a result of the breakdown in relations with Hariri “to control Lebanon’s internal affairs and not simply to influence them.”

The testimony will also cover the growing worries of the international community over Syria’s interference, and the evolution of an anti-Syrian opposition that Hariri joined in the months before his killing.

Cameron said the political testimony would help to understand the actions of members of the conspiracy that assassinated Hariri.

Defense lawyer David Young said the Syria evidence represented a “significant sea change in the way the prosecution has put their case.”

Defense lawyers said the prosecution had gone as far as to present a “new theory” against the suspects, saying the new evidence, including statements made by intelligence chief Wissam Hasan before his death, were all but a new track in a case that had appeared for a long time to abandon the Syrian angle.

“This evidence I believe will be of not one whit of help to you,” Larochelle said, addressing the trial judges. “It is just going to taint the whole file, it’s going to invite you to speculation well beyond what the indictment allows you to do.”

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