Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trial Chamber holds its first pre-trial hearing

Oct 29 2013 - The Trial Chamber convened today for the first Pre-Trial conference to take place at the STL. The Presiding Judge, David Re, opened the public hearing by stating that it is the intention of the Trial Chamber to start trial on 13 January 2014. He also called on the parties to cooperate with the Trial Chamber so that it will be able to meet the start of trial expeditiously. However, Judge Re noted that the Trial Chamber is now seized of 12 outstanding motions, which may potentially have an impact on the date that trial begins. In the meantime there will be other Pre-Trial conferences, with the next hearing expected next month.
The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) was asked to outline how they will they present their case in court. The OTP stated that it intends to present three "chapters". The first relating to what happened in and around the area of the explosion on 14 February 2005. The second will focus on the preparation of the bombing, the purchase of the vehicle used in the attack, and the acts and attempts to falsely attribute the attack. In the third part of their case, the OTP will present evidence attributing responsibility to the four accused. Chapters 2 and 3 will proceed "in tandem" as they are based on call data records and are thus, according to the OTP, clearly linked.
Turning to exhibits and witnesses the OTP said that it is in the second stage of reviewing its lists – a process which will "significantly" reduce their number. It also stated that its opening statement on 13 January 2014 will be complete within two days. The Prosecutor's representative in court indicated that they intend to submit the evidence of a large number of witnesses in writing.
Presiding Judge Re noted that the most significant of the 12 pending motions before the Trial Chamber is a request by the Defence for a stay of the proceedings. The Defence counsel said that their lack of readiness is due to "difficulties getting cooperation from the Lebanese authorities". Defence counsel for Mr. Badreddine claimed they are not ready for trial in the present conditions for many reasons, including the volume of the OTP's evidence. The Defence counsel for Mr. Sabra noted the importance of the outstanding filings including the request for a stay of the proceedings. Defence counsel for Mr. Oneissi also expressed their concerns regarding the volume of disclosed evidence. Defence counsel for Mr. Ayyash submitted the views of all Defence teams on the indictment against the fifth accused Mr. Hassan Habib Merhi – arguing that the indictment against Mr. Merhi, which was confirmed in July, may have an impact on the start of trial, especially if the Prosecution intends to request that this case be joined with Ayyash et al.
The Legal Representative for Victims said he will be ready for trial, adding that he wishes to make an opening statement on the first day of trial and intends to have 8-10 victims present in the courtroom for opening speeches. Both these requests were granted by the Trial Chamber.

Pre Trial Judge transfers the complete Ayyash et al. case file to Trial Chamber

Leidschendam, 28 October 2013 – The Pre-Trial Judge completed the transfer of the entire Ayyash et al. file, containing the evidence and all other documents that relate to the case. The Trial Chamber will now continue to prepare for the start of trial, which is scheduled tentatively for 13 January 2014.
The indictment against the four accused— Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra – was confirmed in June 2011.
STL judges decided in 2012 that the Tribunal can try the accused in their absence, which is permissible under Lebanese Law. The four accused remain at large, but the Lebanese authorities have an ongoing obligation to search for, arrest and transfer the accused to STL custody.
According to the Tribunal's rules, the Pre-Trial Judge is required to submit a complete file in order to allow the Trial Chamber to be seized of the case. A publicly redacted version of the confidential report accompanying the transfer of the case will be available in due course. It is now for the Trial Chamber to confirm a final date for the start of trial.
The transfer of the case file is a significant development in the proceedings of the Ayyash et al. case and it marks the start of the transition from the pre-trial to the trial phase. During trial, the Prosecution, Defence
Counsel and the Legal Representatives of the Victims will present their arguments before the judges of the Trial Chamber.
A public hearing will be held tomorrow, on 29 October, by the Trial Chamber judges to discuss matters related to the preparation of trial.