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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June 5, 2015

The Daily Star - Mitsubishi Canter van takes center stage at STL, June 05, 2015

Elise Knutsen

The Mitsubishi Canter van which was allegedly used as a truck bomb to assassinate Prime Minister Rafik Hariri took center stage at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Thursday.

An unnamed Tripoli-based car salesman, who was given protective measures by the court, testified that he recalled two men paid more than $11,000 in cash for the used Mitsubishi van in late 2004 or early 2005.

One was short and plump, the other was taller and lean, the man testified. They entered his shop and within 45 minutes were driving away in the truck they had purchased. One of them gave his name as Mohammad al-Masri.

The men, he testified, did not have remarkable accents but appeared Lebanese. “There was nothing in the way they spoke that indicated a dialect from a specific area,” he said.

According to the prosecution’s narrative of the assassination, a member of the team directly responsible for coordinating Hariri’s assassination purchased the Mitsubishi Canter van on Jan. 25, 2005. Three weeks later, the truck would be loaded with 2,500 kilograms of TNT equivalent and detonated in Downtown Beirut, killing Hariri and 21 others.

In the indictment against five Hezbollah members charged with plotting Hariri’s execution and the ensuing cover-up, the prosecution claims that the purchase of the Mitsubishi van was carefully calculated and planned two weeks in advance.

But the buyers seemed to have little experience purchasing vehicles, the salesman told the court. “They didn’t negotiate a lot,” he testified.

The vehicle had been shipped from the United Arab Emirates to Lebanon a few weeks or months previously, and was owned by another unidentified witness.

Video footage taken from CCTV cameras on the day of Hariri’s assassination shows a Mitsubishi Canter van driving slowly along the road near the Saint George Hotel.

Forensic evidence gathered from the crime scene suggests that the van was used as a suicide vehicle, according to the prosecution.

The defense, however, has cast doubt on this theory, suggesting that a bomb planted underground or even an aerial strike may have been responsible for the blast.

Earlier in the day, an ISF officer who was part of Hariri’s convoy at the time of the explosion testified that he had not noticed a Mitsubishi Canter van anywhere near the prime minister’s vehicle.

The van, covered in tarpaulin, would have “attracted my attention for sure,” the ISF officer testified. “I would have remembered seeing it, but I didn’t see it.”

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