Monday, August 28, 2017

Victim's daughter testifies at Lebanon assassination trial

BY MIKE CORDER Associated Press AUGUST 28, 2017 12:24 PM
A woman whose father died in the 2005 bombing that killed Lebanon's former prime minister and 21 others testified in court Monday about her frantic days hunting for traces of him after the explosion as her hopes of finding her father alive ebbed away.

Lama Ghalayini was the first of seven witnesses expected to testify before the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon over the next two weeks at the marathon trial in absentia of four suspects in the attack in Beirut.

The suspects are members of the Hezbollah militant group, which denies involvement in former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination. One of those originally indicted, Hezbollah military commander Mustafa Badreddine, was killed in Syria in 2016.

The trial started in January 2014 and prosecutors have so far presented more than 230 witnesses. The suspects have not been arrested and were not in the United Nations-backed court, but lawyers are representing them.

People injured by the bomb and relatives of those killed are being given the opportunity to tell the tribunal about how the attack affected their lives and by extension, its broader impact on Lebanese society.

Ghalayini said she suffered depression and post-traumatic stress after the death of her father, Abdul-Hameed Mohammed Ghalayini.

"I wish this day could be erased from the calendar," she said of the Feb. 14, 2005 blast. "I think it is the only thing that really could relieve me."

Speaking by video link from Beirut, Ghalayini said she and her family scoured hospitals and a morgue and used sniffer dogs to no avail. Her father's remains were recovered more than two weeks later, lying face down under a shallow layer of sand.

Ghalayini was critical of Lebanese authorities for not doing more to help her family in the hunt for her father, who was killed while taking his daily walk along Beirut's seafront.

His daughter was not in Lebanon at the time of the bombing, but said she heard the explosion while she was speaking by phone to a company in Beirut. She flew home as soon as she could.

"It was horrible to see the scene of the explosion and just imagine where my father could have been," she said through an interpreter. "It was really a shock for me."

At the end of her testimony, Ghalayini told judges she hoped the perpetrators eventually will be brought to justice.

"I will never rest until the criminals are prosecuted," she said.

Victims’ case in the Ayyash et al. trial begins

Leidschendam, 28 August 2017 – Today in the Ayyash et al. case, the Legal Representatives of 72 Victims Participating in the Proceedings began presenting evidence on the victims' behalf.

This marks the first time that victims of terrorism have presented their case before an international tribunal.

The Legal Representatives anticipate that the presentation of evidence on behalf of the victims (victims' case) will continue until 8 September 2017 and consist of live testimonies and the tendering into evidence of witness statements and documents. The Legal Representatives will present evidence about the harm that the victims have suffered collectively and individually.

One victim testified today via video conference.

The proceedings can be followed on the STL website with a 30-minute delay in Arabic, English and French.

For more information on victims' rights at the STL, please click here. Frequently asked questions on victim participation before the STL are also available here.

Background information:

On 14 February 2005, an explosion occurred near the St. Georges Hotel in downtown Beirut, so powerful that it left a crater at least ten metres wide and two metres deep in the street.

That explosion killed 22 people, including former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many others suffered physical and psychological injuries from the blast, lost loved ones on that day, or suffered financial loss.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established to bring those responsible for this crime to justice, and to bring justice to the victims of the 14 February attack and connected acts of terrorism.
Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra stand accused of various crimes under Article 2 of the STL Statute and the Lebanese Criminal Code for their alleged role as co-conspirators in that attack.

The Legal Representative of Victims (LRV) is assigned to represent the views and concerns of the participating victims in Prosecutor v. Ayyash et al. You can learn more about the role of the LRV on the STL's YouTube channel.