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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September 1, 2015

The Daily Star - STL prosecution: Ajouz not a candid witness, September 02, 2015

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon heard for the second day Tuesday the testimony of the owner of the telecommunications distributor associated with several cell networks that allegedly carried out the Feb. 14, 2005. attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Lebanese telecommunication distributor the Power Group sold to Tripoli retailers SIM cards for phones implicated in the red and green networks, including that of alleged suicide bomber in the 2005 assassination of Hariri.

Established in 1994 in Beirut, The Power Group distributes SIM cards, recharge cards and handsets. Testifying for a second day, owner Saadeddine Ajouz was asked by Guenael Mettraux, a lawyer for defendant Assad Sabra, to clarify his relationship with Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Aal, whom he believes was the go-to man for Syrian and Lebanese security services in the period of the assassination. Abdel-Aal is a prominent figure in the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects.

But Ajouz appeared hesitant to answer Mettraux’s questions, telling the lawyer they were “sensitive,” implying that answering them might compromise his safety. Mettraux said as a witness, Ajouz was “less than candid.”

“Extremists are everywhere,” Ajouz said when asked to provide information about Abdel-Aal, “I believe this exposes the person who gave this to danger. He needs protection because there are names mentioned here and extremists are able to reach anyone who harms them.”

At one point, when confronting Ajouz with phone records proving he was in regular contact with Abdel-Aal from December 2004 to February 2005, contradicting testimony he had given the day before that he met the man “by coincidence if I saw him on the street,” the witness said the numbers had been put together “haphazardly.”

To explain the nearly 37 calls between himself and Abdel-Aal from Dec. 8, 2004, to Feb. 23, 2005, he said they were related to greetings exchanged during special occasions. When asked on what occasion Abdel-Aal had called him on Jan. 4, 2005, Ajouz attributed it to New Year’s.

At another point the much-exasperated Ajouz exclaimed, “I have nothing to do with these questions, I don’t know any one of these people.”

The day before, the prosecution presented records showing that of the 18 postpaid phone numbers allegedly used by the green network, 12 had been distributed by The Power Group. One was allegedly used solely by defendant Hassan Merhi to contact Mustafa Badreddine, from September 2004 to the day of Hariri’s assassination.

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