Defense lawyers at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon began the cross-examination of an anonymous representative from the Alfa mobile network Wednesday. Witness PRH 707 has been recalled to testify in the case against five members of Hezbollah being tried in absentia for the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri. The witness had been asked to reappear before the court to answer questions on new information he was requested to gather based on his original February 2016 testimony. The evidence is at the heart of the prosecution’s case as the defendants were identified using analysis of call data and billing records.
The examination Wednesday aimed to poke holes in the reliability of the data provided by Alfa in response to the prosecution RFAs (requests for assistance). Crucially for the defense, there are no contemporary cover maps from 2004 and 2005, the information provided being compiled from data starting from Jan. 29, 2007. This line of questioning took a deep look at aspects of the orientation and types of antenna used and the regularity and manner in which they are adjusted or replaced. Coverage maps and their accuracy are vital, as prosecutors have claimed they were able to track the locations of defendants based on the towers their phones were connected to.
“We will try to give an idea from the data we have, but we have always said any maps we can provide will be an approximation. They will not 100 percent reflect the reality,” he said. “We don’t have many changes that happen by accident over time and if that happens it’s only a few degrees.
“Changes are not made randomly. The towers are 30-40 meters high, not just any person can climb the tower and change the antenna. We need reasons to do that operation and we need to do a study afterward to make sure changes were successful.”
The defense then turned to the method used to provide the data to establish what the people involved in the original RFA understood was required of them and if he could speak to events that occurred before he joined the company in 2012. “I don’t mean this flippantly, but did your colleagues approaching this RFA, did they understand it was for the prosecution for the STL for this particular case? In which case they would have known it was for the month of February, 2005?”
As he has done in the past, he reiterated that “today I am not here representing myself, I am here representing the company.” He will appear before the court again Thursday.