After a week of closed sessions, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon resumed public proceedings Friday with testimony from a representative of the Alfa network. The prosecution has charged five members of Hezbollah with the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and contends the conspirators planned the bombing on dedicated groups of prepaid cell phones. The evidence relies heavily on decade-old telecommunications records, which the prosecution says it has used to identify the defendants, trace their movements and unravel their circles of contacts.
The anonymous witness was selected to represent Alfa, one of two mobile phone networks in Lebanon. He testified that he had extended knowledge of the technical aspects of its network, and provided details on cell towers, the automatic generation of call data records and the internal team who had handled requests for information from investigators.
But the witness was frequently interrupted by objections from defense counselors, who contended that he was effectively passing on evidence whose veracity he could not know, particularly given the years that have elapsed since the data was collected.
“The witness cannot speak to the facts,” charged defense attorney Eugene O’Sullivan, representing the interests of defendant Salim Ayyash. “I submit that questions should be put to him that are within his knowledge ... How can we cross-examine him on [this]?”
The witness readily admitted to the limits of his first-hand expertise, but said he trusted the current employees of the network with whom he works to verify data.
“The accuracy of the information we have inherited from the past, ... the accuracy of the information we are looking for, very honestly I cannot answer that question. The majority of the people working in the company at that time are not working today.”