Prosecutors at The Special Tribunal for Lebanon attempted to link defendant Salim Jamil Ayyash to a series of phone numbers Friday, using paperwork relating to a 2004 accident involving a BMW registered to his name. Prosecutor Alison De Bruir read witness statements onto the record to establish the chain of custody of documents citing Ayyash as the owner of the vehicle and connecting him to the crash. Ayyash is one of five members of Hezbollah being tried by the court for the assassination of Rafik Hariri on Valentine’s Day 2005.
The former prime minister was killed along with 21 others when a massive bomb was detonated next to his motorcade in Downtown Beirut. The prosecution’s case rests largely on the attribution and location of the cellular phones that were allegedly used by the conspirators.
De Bruir read witness statements detailing how insurance company employees passed along documents containing Ayyash’s name to investigators working for the office of the prosecutor.
Though his ownership of the cars is disputed, the paperwork depicted a somewhat less than careful driver. Insurance claims detailed accidents requiring repair in 2003 and 2004, and damage to another vehicle insured under Ayyash’s name in 2005.
A number of the documents contained phone numbers. The prosecution drew particular attention to a hand-written number on the reverse of a vehicle registration record, and a number next to Ayyash’s name listing him as a point of contact on a policy purchased by another individual. But the most tangible piece of evidence was a statement made to investigators by a tow-truck driver. Although unable to recollect the accident in question, which according to insurance records occurred on the night of Nov. 20, 2004, he was able to provide both his phone number and that of his towing company.
“[This] telephone number was contacted by the number ending 935 on the evening of Nov. 20, 2004, and that is a number the prosecution seeks to attribute to Mr. Ayyash,” De Bruir said.
The presentation of documents and statements relating to the 2004 accident over the past two days has highlighted the laborious efforts undertaken by prosecutors to try and establish such connections, but has at times tested the patience of the court.
Presiding Judge David Re refused an offer by prosecutors to summarize the submissions. “The issue of the insurance was flogged, almost to death, yesterday.”
The prosecution also presented a witness statement from an alleged acquaintance of Mr. Ayyash, who identified his photograph and provided information on his family and the nature of their various businesses. The witness told investigators that Ayyash had lived in the Beirut southern suburbs, but was also able to provide them the telephone number for Ayyash’s home in his village, located near Marj Harouf in southern Lebanon.