: Prosecutors at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon heard testimony from a former bodyguard of jeweler Sami Issa, a name they allege was an alias used by the principal organizer of the Rafik Hariri assassination.
The witness testified that he was hired in 2002 as a security guard for one of Issa’s shops, but soon became one of his four armed bodyguards.
Prosecutor Graeme Cameron sought to cast aspersions on the notion that Issa was simply a wealthy businessman. Pointing to a pattern of behavior that he argued implied more sinister activity, he contended that the name was one of several used by defendant Mustafa Badreddine. Prosecutors have brought a series of witnesses who knew Issa in various capacities seeking to establish this connection.
A number of the arrangements described by the witness bordered on the bizarre. A portrait emerged of someone who was both very busy and very paranoid.
The witness told the court how Issa would call him each morning to tell him where to collect a car. He described to prosecutors the underground parking garages where he would pick up one of three cars, each fitted with a radio and tinted windows. He was then told where to meet Issa.
Issa usually drove himself in any of six luxury cars he owed, one of them an armored Mercedes, and carried a portable radio. After tailing him until midnight, the witness said he was asked to drop Issa on a highway or major road, and given instructions on where to park.
He was also under the impression that Issa had a second team of bodyguards at night, once recognizing a fellow employee in a passing car as he ended his shift.
Cameron asked the witness whether he found it unusual for a 33-year-old jeweler to have such high security.
The witness said he had voiced the same opinion, only to be promptly summoned and told not to ask or divulge any of Issa’s associates.
He also provided prosecutors with information on some of Issa’s favorite haunts, including Crêpeaway, The Grand Café, The Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel and The Holiday Beach Resort, where he kept his boat. Shown a picture of the boat by prosecutors, he seemed surprised.
“He did not use to like photographs. He had told us that wherever he would be – in his shop, in a restaurant, in a hotel – that we should prevent anyone from taking a photo of him, and that if we see anyone taking pictures of him, we are instructed to take the phone or camera of that person and see that he did not capture him in any of the pictures.”
The tribunal resumes Wednesday for further testimony.